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Should Bashing Your Boss on Facebook Be Legally Protected?

Should Bashing Your Boss on Facebook Be Legally Protected?

Kathy O'Reilly | Monster's Director of Social Media Relations

February 22, 2011

Employees have been criticizing their bosses since the beginning of time.

Until the birth of social media, these conversations generally played out in lunchrooms or restrooms, around the water cooler, over a few cocktails at the local pub after working hours, and in the smoker’s circle outside the office building.

Regardless if the criticisms were true or not, the context remained private for the most part, usually involving a few other employees who also had similar disdain and negative feedback regarding the boss. Now, via social channels like Facebook and Twitter, private thoughts shared among a few are becoming very public statements broadcast to the world in real-time.

Should employees be allowed to bash the boss on Facebook? More importantly, should they be legally protected when they publicly disparage their boss in social media?

These questions and concerns hit mainstream media last week following a recent case in Connecticut where the National Labor Relations Board ruled that companies can’t fire employees for complaining about their boss on Facebook.

To set the historical context around the recent ruling, in 2009, American Medical Response (AMR), an ambulance services company, fired one of their emergency medical technicians for posting a criticism of her supervisor on Facebook. Several of the woman’s coworkers agreed with her Facebook post, in which she “referred to their supervisor using AMR’s code for a psychiatric patient.”

Fast forward to October 2010, when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in turn filed a complaint against the company on behalf of Dawnmarie Souza, the fired EMT. The NLRB argued that “the National Labor Relations Act made Souza’s comments protected speech; the act gave her the right to discuss terms of employment with AMR with her coworkers and other people.”

The NLRB also felt AMR erred in not providing Souza with union representation when supervisors met with her to discuss her Facebook post.

Next: Three Questions for Employers To Consider >>


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