Another nuance of the rapidly growing topic of the law of social networking concerns the protection of employees who complain about conditions at work. See “Social Media for Lawyers,” in Bench & Bar (November 2010). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency that regulates management and labor relations, has issued a complaint that an employer, in terminating an employee, violated the provision of the federal labor law that permits employees to “engage in concerted activities” for the improvement of working conditions. See American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., v. Teamsters, Local 443, No. 34-CA-12576 (http://www.scribd.com/doc/41010696/American-Medical-Response-of-CT-NLRB-Nov-2010/) The employee posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page after being denied Union representation at an investigatory interview. The “concerted activities” measure protects employees against reprisal based upon their participation, with others, in efforts to address workplace issues. The charge, which is set for hearing January 25, fortifies the rights of employees and their advocates to raise workplace-related concerns, although employers and their business organizations can try to fend off such claims by pointing out that employees are not protected when they are acting alone, for their own individual purposes, and are not attempting to engage others in improving the workplace. Because engaging in “concerted activities” has been protected for years in other media and forums, including face-to-face conversations, the NLRB complaint does not establish new law, but it does reflect the growing prevalence of social networking as a force to be reckoned with in employment law for employers, employees, their unions, and their attorneys.
Marshall H. Tanick
Mansfield, Tanick & Cohen, PA