Saturday, September 10, 2011


The National Labor Relations Board has weighed in on the role of social networking at the office, determining that employees can't be fired for what they post on Facebook -- as long as they use the platform to talk about improving their workplace. The NLRB's ruling, announced on Wednesday, stems from an incident last year, when an employee at the Hispanics United of Buffalo non-profit organization went on Facebook to complain about a co-worker who accused her of slacking off at the office. Other colleagues soon chimed in on the woman's wall post with a slew of profanity-laced comments, before the targeted employee noticed the thread and reported it to a supervisor. Citing the agency's zero-tolerance policy on cyber harassment, the boss fired the five employees who participated in the online discussion -- including one who went on to file a complaint with the NLRB. Last week, administrative law Judge Arthur Amchan finally issued a verdict in the case, determining that the employees retained the right to talk about "their terms and conditions of employment," as stipulated under the National Labor Relations Act. Because this particular Facebook thread involved discussion of "job performance and staffing levels," Amchan ordered Hispanics United to reinstate the employees.

The decision marks the first time that an administrative judge has ruled on a Facebook-related workplace case, though the NLRB says it's received "an increasing number of charges related to social media in the past year" -- so it likely won't be the last.

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