Freedom to Vent on Facebook Defended

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against a company in Connecticut for firing an employee who made critical and derogatory comments about her supervisor on the social networking site Facebook.

The company American Medical Response claims that the EMT Dawnmarie Souza was terminated because of “multiple, serious complaints about her behavior,” and not because she vented on her Facebook page to the extent that one of the mildest terms used to describe her supervisor was to compare him to a psychiatric patient.

The labor board accuses the company of not only illegally terminating the employee but also denying her access to union representation during an investigative review. According to the labor relations board “You are permitted to talk about terms and conditions with employees or anyone else, it’s public because you are protected under the National Labor Act.”

The National Labor Act gives workers the right to form unions and prohibits employers from taking action against employees whether they are union members or not for discussing work conditions. This could be a groundbreaking case because the legal territory of social networking on the web is uncharted as to what repercussions are allowed for employees who upset or discuss employers in the public domain.

A labor board hearing is scheduled for January 25. It will be interesting to see how this plays out considering that many companies are now actively including grounds for termination in the employees’ handbooks for those who discuss the company on social networking sites.