Social media is currently the preferred way to communicate; thus creating a blurred line between the workplace and personal space. Work and personal messages, at times, are streamed through the same device. We now carry our internet inside our phone. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) restricts the monitoring with two exceptions. If the employer can present a reasonable business reason or the employees consent (Dessler 2013). The National Labor Relations Board or NLRB has issued complaints concerning the use of employee posts on social media sites (O’Brien 2011). When the case involves derogatory information about the current employer or boss, should this employee be discipline or terminated? We will be reviewing one case regarding this topic and then in conclusion discus social media policy.
The First Facebook Firing Case under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act The first complaint concerning this dilemma was made on October 27, 2010 against American Medical Response of Connecticut (AMR) for the suspension and firing of Dawnmarie Souza (2011). The employee was reprimanded for posting derogatory comments about her employer on her Facebook page. Ms. Souza requested union representation at her investigatory interview leading to an alleged threat by her employer. The Weingarten Right supported by the NLRA, the employer should not discourage or threaten discipline concerning membership in a labor organization such as a union representative (2011). Ms. Souza completed an incident report without the support of the union representative, she was suspended and terminated soon after (2011). Employers should have the right to protect their reputation, by disciplining poor behavior and harmful social media activity.
Respectively, employees have the right to communicate on devices of their own, on their own time. This case raises the importance of employer policies concerning social media. The question is not if the derogatory comments concerning the employer were wrong, they were. Yet, was it handled correctly? The employee was improperly disciplined and terminated. Ms. Souza’s conduct was disloyal to the company and she violated company policy. The use of profanity demonstrated misconduct concerning her supervisor, demonstrating conflict of legitimate business interest.
NLRA Findings Concerning Concerted Activity
NLRA found the company’s policies were overbroad and inhibited with the employees right to engage in protected concerted activity (2011). The combination of the company enforcing its overbroad policies and threating Ms. Souza, with the intimidation of discipline due to requesting a union representative violating her Weingarten right, was the employer’s error. Awarding Ms. Souza a settlement. NLRB found that Frank Filardo and general manager Charles Babson allegedly threatened Ms. Souza, illegally denying her union representation, requiring her to complete the written report unaided. This would have been considered an unfair labor act (2011). The employee was engaged in a protected concerted activity, was this activity the motivation for the employers action or would the employee be terminated anyway? This would be more difficult to prove. NLRB questioned the employer’s action, the conduct of the employee, separately from the activity as being legitimate (2011).
Reflection on NLRB Court Decision
I agree with the lawful decision that NLRB provided. If the management would have handled this wrongdoing with responsibility to the labor laws, the result could have been avoided. Frank Filardo acted on emotion and feeling instead of representing his employer, AMR, professionally. Ms. Souza’s accusations and comments about Frank Filardo were far from flattering, yet, two wrongs don’t make a right. AMR claimed that there were other complaints concerning Ms. Souza, causing the termination outside of her Facebook postings. If these accusations could have been proven, it would have been a different consideration and most likely would have resulted in a court hearing. I do not agree with the conduct of Ms. Souza’s behavior. This entire incident could and should have been handled differently. I also do not agree with how management at AMR handled her termination. Denying her union representation was unlawful and questions management’s integrity. I believe that NLRA had no other choice than to question and examine the actions of management in the AMR case.
Example of Effect on Employee Relations
The decision concluding this case would separate the relationship between employees and management. Even though the behavior of the employee was fare from respectful, the way management handled it was equally inappropriate. If something like this happened at my current workplace, the employee would be fired by the owner of the company. We have under 20 employees, it’s a family business, and any negative publicity towards the company would not be tolerated. There are no policies in place concerning social media, yet, I know that this type of behavior would be handled in the parking lot on your way into work. The owner of the company would tell you to go home and may or may not give you an explanation.
Communication of Social Media Policy
Education including social networking and the impact on productivity is a current concern to many employers. Monitoring usage of company time and use of company computers for deceptive endorsements is a growing legal apprehension. “A recent U.S. Federal Trade Commission decision may make employers liable for deceptive endorsements that employees post on their own blogs or on social media sites such as Facebook, even if the employers didn’t authorize the statements” (Withers 2012). I would communicate to employees that first of all the reputation of the company and everyone affiliated with it matters greatly for the productivity and success of profitability. This is attached to the current employment of everyone that is a part of the organization. I would also express that the employers may be liable for poor choices concerning social media. This could bring a company financially to its knees. Explaining that a social media policy will be put into place so the entire organization understands what is and is not acceptable behavior.
I would express that all concerns and questions will be heard and considered. Expressing that a social media policy will protect the organization as a whole. The organization is not trying to take any rights away from any employees. We are protecting our jobs and the future of the company. In conclusion, I believe that all organizations large or small should have a social media policy. A small business could be eradicated by any unlawful actions representing it. Labor laws should be known and understood by all management. This case was an example of how an employer reaction to an employee is crucial. The denial of a Weingarten right, if proven, was the unlawful act that is remembered as a distinct unfair labor practice (2011). If the incident was handled correctly Ms. Souza’s responsibility for her alleged wrongdoing would have been most likely taken into greater consideration.
Dessler, G., Pearson Education Incorporated (2013). Human Resource Management. Ethics and Employee Rights and Discipline, 14, 469-475
O’Brien, C.N. (2011). The First Facebook Firing Case under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act: Exploring the Limits of Labor Law Protection for Concentrated Communication on Social Media. Suffolk University Law Review, 45(29), 30-40.
Withers, C. (2012). Report on Implementation of EEOC’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016: Retrieved Jan. 16, 2014. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-20-13/withers.cfm http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-20-13/withers.cfm http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-20-13/withers.cfm