Social Media, Labor Law and the National Labor Relations Board

January 26, 2012 Comments
Social Media, Labor Law and the National Labor Relations Board

In August 2011, the the National Labor Relations Board released a report on the outcome of 14 cases involving employees’ use of social media. They also issued the first decision of its kind — finding that terminating employees for using social media to express concerns about the workplace violated the National Labor Relations Act.

This report gives employers some guidance on reacting to the use of social media by their employees; and also serves as a guide for developing social media policies.

In summary, the NLRB found that five employees at Hispanics United of Buffalo, a non profit organization were fired illegally for criticizing a co-worker publicly on Facebook; and should be reinstated because their actions were protected under federal labor law. The case was a part of several complaints in 2010/11 brought on behalf of workers challenging their employers’ right to fire them for posting personal opinions within social media sites.

The judge based his ruling on Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which basically states that as that long as employees are communicating with each other to improve working conditions and wages, their actions are protected.

i-Sight, a hosted case management software solution provider has put together this guide book (free download, email required) that provides the following:

  • How to create a social media policy
  • How to educate employees about acceptable social media use
  • What ‘protected concerted activity’ is and why you can’t fire an employee for engaging in it
  • Guidance from recent NLRB decisions

Additionally, U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a more comprehensive report, Survey of Social Media Issues Before the NLRB, on how to apply labor law to workplace social media policies.