Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NLRB Goes After Nonprofit Employer for Discharging Employees Over Facebook Posts

There’s no apparent end in sight to the National Labor Relations Board’s growing docket of social media cases.  As we noted just two days ago, the agency's interest in the subject appears to be at an all-time high, and which way the Board decides to proceed in a given case ultimately depends on whether the social media activity at issue is “concerted” activity that relates to terms and conditions of employment or seeks to involve others in issues related to employment.

In the latest chapter of the unfolding saga, the NLRB announced today that it has issued a complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo, a New York nonprofit that provides social services to low-income clients.  An employee posted to her Facebook page a co-worker’s allegation that employees did not do enough to help the agency’s clients.  That post led to a flurry of Facebook responses from other employees, defending their job performance and criticizing working conditions.  After learning of the posts, the employer discharged the five workers who participated, claiming that their comments constituted harassment of the employee who made the original allegations that were critical of her fellow employees.  The Board’s complaint alleges that the Facebook discussion was protected concerted activity because it involved a conversation among coworkers about their terms and conditions of employment, including their job performance and staffing levels. 

Unless the case is settled, as was a previous case involving Facebook posts that garnered national attention earlier this year, the matter will proceed to a trial before an administrative law judge, which is currently set for June 22, 2011.

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