Social media – A curse or a blessing for companies? The answer is perhaps a little bit of both. It allows you to communicate with your customers, employees, and the world quickly and efficiently…the downside is communication is fast – often faster than your corporate communications team. A recent ruling will possibly make employers should think twice before trying to restrict workers from talking about their jobs on Facebook or other social media outlets.
That’s the message the government sent recently as it settled a closely watched lawsuit against a Connecticut ambulance company that fired an employee after she went on Facebook to criticize her boss. The National Labor Relations Board sued the company last year, arguing the worker’s negative comments were protected speech under federal labor laws. The company claimed it fired the emergency medical technician because of complaints about her work.
Under the settlement with the labor board, American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. agreed to:
1. Change its blogging and Internet policy that barred workers from disparaging the company or its supervisors.
2. Revise another policy that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without permission.
Both policies interfered with longstanding legal protections that allow workers to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers, the board said.
Souza posted the Facebook comments in 2009 from her home computer, hours after her supervisor said a customer had complained about her work. The expletive-filled posting referred to her supervisor using the company’s code for a psychiatric patient. Her remarks at the time drew supportive posts from colleagues.
This case will have employers around the country re-examining their Internet policies. Do you have a social media policy? Based on this ruling, it would behoove you to go back to your legal counsel and revisit it in light of this new ruling. It’s a brave new world!