Social media websites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter and Myspace are an outlet for people’s thoughts, pictures, videos and interests. These sites, specifically sites like Facebook, are used as a way to connect and share with other friends, family members or colleagues. Social media websites have also become a tool for employers to research potential employees and to monitor current employees.
Some employers have fired their employees for what they have posted on Facebook, saying the post is a violation of the company’s social media policy. Historically, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), a federal agency that safeguards employee rights and prevents unfair employer practices, supported the position that employer’s could implement policies that maintained order in the workplace and allowed employer’s to make the decision to fire their employees because of social media posts, specifically Facebook posts.
This changed in 2010, when Dawnmarie Souza of American Medical Response (“AMR”) in Connecticut complained about her supervisor in a post on Facebook and AMR fired Souza because of her post. NLRB brought an action against AMR and for the first time advanced the position that employees must be permitted to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others.By terminating Souza for posting comments that drew support from co-workers, AMR had violated the National Labor Relations Act. Although the case settled, this was the first case of its’ kind to set legal limits on employer’s Internet and social media policies.
Although this case recognized limits on employer policies on social media sites, there are still a few lessons that can be taken away from this: