Wednesday, February 09, 2011
From the Water Cooler to the Blogosphere
Are social media sites the water coolers of the digital age?
If you ask the National Labor Relations Board, it seems that answer is yes.
This week, the board settled out of court with a Connecticut-based ambulance company that fired an employee after she criticized her boss on Facebook.
The incident happened in December of 2010, when the employee posted vulgar comments about her boss after he denied one of her requests. Several of her co-workers spotted the thread and joined in with additional criticism. The employee was soon after fired and the NLRB filed suit. In their claim, the NLRB said the employee’s comments were protected speech and further argued that the ambulance company’s social media and internet policies violated an employees’ right to talk about wages, working conditions and other factors.
While the financial terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, the company has revealed that they will be changing their blogging and internet use policies to no longer prohibit employees from talking about or even criticizing their jobs online.
This outcome serves as a major signal to companies rewriting their internet policies. Just as they cannot restrict employees from complaining around the water cooler, they cannot stop them from taking to the internet to voice their complaints to a wider audience.
For employees looking to voice their malcontent online, a word of warning however. It’s important to note that in this case, the employee made the comments from her own computer, on her own time. Therefore, it may be safe to say that when and how you choose to make these online comments could impact your rights.
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