A settlement the federal government reached with a company that fired an employee after she disparaged her boss on Facebook will likely have employers examining their work rules concerning social media, labor and employment lawyers say.
The National Labor Relations Board on Monday settled the complaint it had filed against American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. The board alleged the ambulance company’s Internet policies violated the National Labor Relations Act and interfered with an employee’s rights to engage in concerted activity protected by the act.
Dawnmarie Souza was suspended and then fired for violating the company’s Internet policies after referring to her supervisor as a mental patient in posts made from her home computer.
The company agreed to change its policy that barred workers from disparaging the company or supervisor and will revise a policy that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without permission.
Both policies interfered with longstanding legal protections that allow workers to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers, the board said.
So can folks bash bosses on Facebook with abandon?
Because this case was settled, employers don’t yet know what’s permissible in handling worker’s comments, employment, lawyers say.
“The law surrounding social media in the workplace is developing; sometimes in a contradictory manner,” said Phillip Schreiber, a partner at Holland and Knight LLP. “Their decision to settle deprived us of the ability to see what the board would do on this issue.”