My job sucks and I hate my boss.
Those are not the words, as an employer, that you want to see an employee broadcast anywhere, especially not on widely-disseminating social media sites like Facebook. Unfortunately, a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board argues that there are limitations to controlling employees' Facebook speech.
So, can a boss fire employees for Facebook work criticism and complaints? The NLRB would argue no, so long as other co-workers joined in on the protected "concerted activity." This happened recently when a disgruntled employee complained about her supervisor on Facebook and many of her co-workers chimed into the discussion. She was ultimately fired for her comments. According to the NLRB, her comments were protected by the First Amendment.
The NLRB complaint argued that the Facebook work criticism was a form of protected "concerted activity." The complaint does not claim employees have unfettered rights to publish workplace grievances on social media sites. But it argued the importance of allowing protected, work-related conversations. Facebook posts that no co-workers respond to or those posts that are simply disparaging remarks about a workplace or supervisor, likely would not fall under the protection of the First Amendment, reports NPR.
If, as an employer, you are considering banning all social media posts about the workplace: tread lightly. Best to craft a policy that is narrowly tailored while not banning all online activity.
- Company Accused of Firing Over Facebook Post (New York Times)
- Employment Law 101 (FindLaw)
- The Supreme Court Finds No First Amendment Protection for Government Employee Speech Pursuant to Official Duties (FindLaw's Writ)