A federal labor agency has ruled that social media postings are protected speech that employers cannot use against staffers.
In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page. This is the first case in which the labor board has stepped in to argue that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements. [snip]
But employees might cross the line into unprotected territory if they disparage supervisors over something unrelated to work — for instance, a supervisor’s sexual performance — or if their statements are disloyal. Courts often view workers’ statements as disloyal when they are defamatory and are not supported by facts. Mr. Babson cited a case upholding the firing of airline workers who held signs saying their airline was unsafe. But, he said, if employees held signs accurately saying their airline or restaurant had been cited for dozens of safety violations, that would most likely be protected.
The agency also noted that monitoring employee Facebook postings could be considered an act of union-busting.