Griping About Work Online Is (Mostly) Protected
Employees have a right to band together, say recent rulings
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jan 22, 2013 12:17 PM CST
A Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad, Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in New York.   (AP Photo/James H. Collins)

(Newser) – Companies have been overstepping their authority by restricting workers' online comments, say federal officials who are moving to fix the issue. Labor regulators have deemed some firings over social-network discussions illegal, arguing that companies' rules regarding online speech are far too broad, the New York Times reports. A lot of workers "view social media as the new water cooler," says the head of the National Labor Relations Board. "All we’re doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology."

Thanks to the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, workers have a right to engage in "concerted activity" for "mutual aid" when it comes to discussing matters like working conditions, officials say. But not every online complaint is fair game. The Times offers some examples of both:

  • When a social worker threatened to tell the boss that fellow employees were slacking, one person took to Facebook to ask others how they felt about the threat. All who commented were fired. Labor officials called those firings illegal.
  • But when a police reporter jokingly complained on Twitter that there hadn't been enough local murders, the ensuing firing was deemed legal because the posts were not about working conditions.

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Apr 28, 2013 11:44 AM CDT
Due to the fact that I have worked in the retail and restaurant industry, where these laws are most prevalent, I believe that the steps that the government are taking to prevent employers from terminating their employees is a very good thing. However, I hope that this is just the beginning, due to the fact that in our day and age social media, such as facebook and twitter, are used by the public as a way to voice their concerns and frustrations about any number of topics, especially work, and as such, I do not think it is fair that employers can threaten to fire their employees for opinions that are voiced off the clock and out of the workplace. In my journalism class, we have learned that the internet, much like the written and spoken word of the past, has become the major form of free speech and as such, a company attempting to limit it’s employees ability to speak freely, when no at work, is a clear violation of their freedom of speech.
Apr 23, 2013 10:33 AM CDT
I think it is extremely wrong for employees to get fired because they talked about working conditions on a social network, such as Facebook. The First Amendment gives people to right to freespeech, which includes online speech. To be fired over an opinion, or fact about a certain company should be illegal. The First Ammendment protects peoples speech,their right to religion, press, assemble, and petition. Nothing about posting comments on social networks is wrong. If The First Ammendment protects their speech, than workers should not be fired for it. If they do get fired it is saying that the first ammendment doesn't mean anything. It would imply that people are not allowed to speak freely about their workplace, when in fact they have every right to. -Maria Rocco
Jan 22, 2013 2:16 PM CST
My job is so unbelievable. I'll try to sum it up by first telling you about the folks I work with: First, there is this supermodel wanna-be chick. Yeah, okay, she is pretty hot, but damn is she completely useless. The girl is constantly fixing her hair or putting on makeup. She is extremely self-centered and has never once considered the needs or wants of anyone but herself. She is as dumb as a box of rocks, and I still find it surprising that she has enough brain power to continue to breathe. The next chick is completely the opposite. She might even be one of the smartest people on the planet. Her career opportunities are endless, and yet she is here with us. She is a zero on a scale of 1 to 10. I'm not sure she even showers, much less shaves her "womanly" parts. I think she might be a lesbian, because every time we drive by the hardware store, she moans like a cat in heat. But the jewel of the crowd has got to be the stoner. And this guy is more than just your average pothead. In fact, he is baked before he comes to work, during work, and I'm sure after work. He probably hasn't been sober anytime in the last ten years, and he's only 22. He dresses like a beatnik throwback from the 1960's, and to make things worse, he brings his humongous dog to work. Every day I have to look at this huge Great Dane walk around half-stoned from the second-hand smoke. Hell, sometimes I even think it's trying to talk with its constant bellowing. Also, both of them are constantly hungry, requiring multiple trips to get fast food or other snacks, every single day. Anyway, I drive these people around in my van and we solve mysteries and stuff.