Millions of people in America use social media to communicate. Both workers communicating with colleagues and businesses crafting their brand use the same social media sites. The extent to which businesses can restrict employees’ speech online is being tested in the courts right now. A case settled at the beginning of February began to lay out with more definition what businesses can and cannot include in their Internet policies for employees.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sued a Connecticut ambulance company for firing a woman after she posted derogatory comments about her boss on the social networking site, Facebook. The company insisted that the employee was fired for a series of performance issues. The former employee claimed she was fired for her online comments about her boss. According to the Associated Press, the NLRB contended that the employee’s speech was protected by federal labor laws that give workers the right to discuss working conditions and other conditions of employment with each other.
The NLRB and the company settled the case. The former employee will be awarded financial damages and the company agreed to make changes to its employee Internet policies. The company will change its policy that says that employees cannot say negative things about the company or their supervisors online. The company will also change its policy that says that employees have to seek permission before depicting the company online in any way.
The ways in which employers can restrict employees’ speech online will continue to be hammered out in the near future. The boundaries will continue to be defined, but according to the AP, there will be boundaries found between disparaging comments and divulging confidential or protected business information.
Feds settle case of woman fired over Facebook site (Associated Press)