What Kinds of Social Media Posts Provide a Legitimate Basis for Termination?

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gives employees the right to engage in protected, concerted activity and discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. This, however, is not a free pass for all types of communication. In Richmond District Neighborhood Center, Case No. 20-CA-091748 the NLRB determined there were some postings in social media that were so egregious as to lose the protection afforded above-referenced.

In Richmond District Neighborhood Center the employer runs afterschool programs at a high school. Two workers had discussions which were perceived to be insubordinate. In essence, these employees discussed on Facebook how they would ignore the employer’s rules. The NLRB determined these threats justified termination and were not protected types of communication in social media.

Conversely, the NLRB found that “likes” can be protected under the theory of a “concerted activity.” In 2014, the NLRB ruled that Triple Play Sports Bar and Grill fired individuals inappropriately. In this matter a former Triple Play employees posted negative comments about the employer on a Facebook page and a current employee “liked” the post. When that employee returned to work the employee was terminated immediately based upon the “like” of the comment. The NLRB found this was not appropriate. The NLRB found the company’s anti-blogging policy was aimed at stopping employees from saying anything negative about the company online and, therefore, was an effort to chill protected, “concerted activity.”

Further, in a NLRB advice memorandum pertaining to Skin Smart Dermatology a question arose as to whether or not the employer violated Section 8(a)(1) of the Act when the employer discharged the charging party for comments made in a private Facebook group message. In this matter the NLRB concluded the charging party was not engaged in a protected concerted activity when she posted comments to the Facebook group message. In this matter the communication was not considered a concerted activity but, instead, was not a concerted activity as it did not involve shared employee concerns over terms and conditions of employment. Rather, the post was associated with personal issues the particular employee had with the employer.

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