The world wide web. It seems impossible to remember a time before the internet (and social media) took over. And with employees, millenials particularly, adapting to our digital age with such ease, it is ever-important for California employers to be vigilant regarding how they respond to employee social media usage.
Let’s look at a recent case that went before the National Labor Relations Board, for example. An electric utility lineman took to the online forum “Linejunk” to share his thoughts on workplace safety – thoughts he had previously shared with his co-workers and managers. Concerned about issues affecting the safety of his fellow linemen, the employee responded to a “conversation starter regarding safety”, specifically dealing with crew size and the number of workers in the area, on the Linejunk Facebook page. This was the first and only time the employee posted a comment on the Linejunk Facebook page and he testified his objective was to advocate “for better safety.”
Within a week of his online posting, he was fired. According to the decision maker, reasons for the firing included the “issue with the Facebook post,” as well as alleged attitude issues in prior years. Read more on termination best practices here.
The disgruntled ex-employee complained to the NLRB. The Board found that the employee had engaged in a concerted protected activity for the purpose of mutual aid or protection and that he was discharged because of that activity and ordered that the employee be reinstated with back pay, among other things.
The takeaway from this case is that it now appears concerted activity does not have to specifically identify the employee’s employer. Indeed, comments about the employer’s industry may be enough to merit protected status if there is a tie back to the employer. Furthermore, the reaction of co-workers to a social media post can’t be the basis for an adverse employment decision.
For more information on how to manage the ever-changing world of social media, contact attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.