Social Media and the Workplace
In a recent string of events wherein people have lost their jobs over tweets (Nazis getting called out, a woman flipping off the president while riding her bicycle, employees using their social media as a platform to complain about their jobs, etc.), employers are wondering where to draw the line when it comes to tolerating tweets from their employees.
When Employers Are Wrong
Some employers have had their decisions overturned by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In the case of Mariana Cole-Rivera in 2010, she posted a Facebook status that read: “My fellow co-workers, how do you feel?” The comments were a series of negative statements related mostly to hours and wages. All participants in the thread were fired by their employer.
The NLRB went on to overturn this decision. In other cases, however, where employees have bashed their employer as well as clients, the NLRB upheld the employer’s decision.
This problem is a relatively new one, with social media platforms gaining rapid popularity just over the past decade or so, and the challenge is that there does not seem to be set-in-stone rules about what an employee can or cannot post on their personal profiles. The NLRB is reportedly responding by adapting established free speech rules in the workplace to social media platforms.
Guidelines You Should Follow
According to Lafe Solomon, Acting General Counsel of the NLRB, there are two specific guidelines employers should follow:
- Employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.
- An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.
In other words, complaints (whether on social media or elsewhere) geared toward creating a positive change in the workplace are generally accepted, while comments that demean the workplace or others do not have to be tolerated.