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December 6th, 2010
NLRB Puts Social Media Policies Under Scrutiny
While an innovative social media campaign can be a great boon to business, corporate America is becoming increasingly aware of the inherent dangers of social media as well. In particular, employees’ statements about employers on personal Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts have the potential to cause a company a PR nightmare, or even subject a company to litigation. Thus, more and more companies are developing internal social media policies in an attempt to control this uncontrollable media. And while having such a policy is generally a good idea, a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case highlights that great care must be taken in crafting it.
In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case, the NLRB has accused American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. (AMRI), an ambulance company, of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page. According to the complaint, employers that punish workers for such statements may violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of workers to communicate with each other about wages, hours, and other employment conditions -- even if those workers are not unionized.
The NLRB charged that AMRI's "Blogging and Internet Posting Policy," which prohibits employees from making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the Company or the employee's superiors, co-workers and/or competitors, violates the employees' right to engage in "protected concerted activity."
The case suggests the NLRB may pursue even private sector, non-union companies that have overly broad social network policies -- even in the absence of an unlawful termination. But what exactly is an “overly broad” social networking policy? Previous NLRB opinions suggest that not all social media posts that criticize management are protected -- only those which “involve protected concerted activity or union activity.” The challenge for employers lies in interpreting what “protected concerted activity” is, formulating appropriate policies, and then correctly applying those policies to employees’ online statements.
At a minimum, employers may have to consider revising their social media policies to carve out “protected concerted activity or union activity.” They should also take care, when applying these policies, to analyze the employees’ statements to ensure they do not touch upon labor disputes or other protected issues. Further, it makes sense for employers to obtain the input of their human resources departments when developing social media policies, to better protect against the possibility of creating an unduly aggressive policy.
If you have any questions about your own social media policy or other advertising/marketing issues, please contact Terri Seligman at (212) 826 5580 or email@example.com or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Advertising Group.
For questions about the case or other employment issues, please contact Wendy Stryker at (212) 705 4838 or firstname.lastname@example.org or any member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Executive Compensation and Employment Group.
Other Employment Law Alerts
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training Begins for Certain New York City Employers
April 1, 2019 is an important date for many New York City employers. On that date New York City employers with 15 or more employees (including contractors) who have worked more than 80 hours and at least 90 days in a calendar year, must begin providing mandatory sexual harassment training. Read more.
March 14 2019
California Employment Law Changes You Need to Know
A raft of legislative changes affect hiring practices, employment agreements, employee classification, training, and more. Here’s a handy summary. Read more.
January 28 2019
Are You Ready for New York’s New Anti-Harassment Rules?
Many New York employers are days away from a number of important compliance deadlines relating to the recently enacted New York State anti-sexual harassment laws (a link to our prior alert on these laws is here). We have provided a summary of what covered employers need to do. Read more.
October 1 2018