Federal agency the National Labor Relations Board has launched a legal case asserting that employees have a right to free speech on Facebook.
The NLRB alleges that the American Medical Response of Connecticut ambulance service illegally fired an employee who posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page.
The complaint also alleges that Dawnmarie Souza, an emergency medical technician, was illegally denied union representation during an investigatory interview, and that the company enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy.
When asked to respond to a customer complaint, Souza asked for, and was denied, union representation – and later that day posted a critical remark about her supervisor which drew comments of agreement from her colleagues.
Souza was suspended, and subsequently fired – although the company is claiming that this was because of two complaints about her service.
The NLRB says that the Facebook postings constitute protected concerted activity – activity ‘for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection’. It argues that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy is unlawful, for examply by prohibiting employees from making disparaging remarks or depicting the company on the internet without permission.
The complaint, if upheld, would bring legislation on internet communication into line with existing labor laws that allow staff to criticize management when talking to coworkers on their own time.
There will be a hearing on the complaint next January.