NLRB Backs Worker Fired After Facebook Posts Ripping Boss


"Employers should look at their policies and see if they need to revise their positions," said Cynthia Sass, who has a private plaintiffs employment law firm in Tampa and is co-chair for the technology and section of the labor and employment section of the American Bar Association. "The NLRB applies to most employers."

Ron Meisburg, former general counsel for the labor relations board, said the board needs to allow employers more leeway in their social media policies. Meisburg, currently a partner in the labor and employment law department of Proskauer law firm in Washington D.C., said a board rule already makes it unlawful for employers to ban employees from making false statements.

"I think that may come as a surprise to a lot of employers," said Meisburg. "That's an area the board should revisit as well. It's obviously wrong to make false statements and I think employers should have more leeway to ban those."

While this may be the first time employers are under scrutiny for their online policies, employees are already acquainted with a constant stream of headlines about firings over content on Facebook and other social media.

June Talvitie-Siple, a supervisor of a high school math and science program in Cohasset, Mass., was asked to resign in August over her Facebook comments calling students "germ bags" and parents "snobby" and "arrogant."

Talvitie-Siple told she thought her comments were only visible to her friends and didn't realize that her Facebook settings had permitted the parents who contacted the school superintendent to read them.

"She did what was probably the most appropriate thing to do," Talvitie-Siple said of the superintendent's actions. While Talvitie-Siple may have learned her lesson, Sass cautions employees to do more than just check their Facebook settings.

"In some situations, employers have been successful at making courts force employees reveal to what it on their personal websites," said Sass. "Even if you have privacy settings, honestly, you shouldn't be putting anything on a website you don't want employers to see."

Sass described a sexual harassment case this year in the southern district of Indiana in which a court forced an employee who had brought the suit to reveal her social media site for evidence.

Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations board, said that he may recommend to the board a policy regarding social media and labor law.

"The biggest challenge of this is that it's an area that probably changes exponentially every month and year," said Solomon. "I'm not sure we could see all possibilities of where this is going."

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