Feb 09, 2011
A few months ago, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed an unfair labor practice complaint against American Medical Response, challenging its decision to fire an employee based on her Facebook comments criticizing a supervisor. (My previous post about the case is here.) After she was denied the right to have a union representative help her respond to a customer complaint, Dawnmarie Souza went home, logged on to her Facebook page, and compared her supervisor to a psychiatric patient. Other employee responded, and Souza posted additional critical comments. Then she was fired.
The NLRB's complaint challenged not only the company's decision to fire Souza but also its policies on blogging and Internet posts, which prohibit "disparaging, discriminatory, or defamatory comments" about the company, coworkers, or customers. (It also challenged the company's refusal to allow her union representation.) The NLRB alleged that these policies were too broad, and infringed on employees' rights to engage in protected concerted activity by communicating with each other about the terms and conditions of employment.
From the sound of the official release about the settlement, the NLRB got what it wanted: The company "agreed to revise its overly broad rules" to make sure that employees are not prevented from discussing the terms and conditions of employment and to refrain from disciplining employees for such discussions going forward. The company also agreed to grant employee requests for union representation in the future. (Ms. Souza's future at the company isn't clear; the press release indicates that her claims against the company were settled in a separate, private agreement.)