Hospital Violates Federal Law for Firing Nurse who Commented on Facebook about an Ongoing Labor Dispute

    January 15, 2015

    Companies can face serious legal problems for firing an employee for their social media activity without first determining whether the employee’s speech is protected under federal law. Here’s a recent case:

    The Facts

    A nurse made an in-person presentation to his union regarding various labor disputes in connection with the employer’s “management style.” He asserted that the employer engaged in multiple unfair labor practices; forced policy changes; and engaged in unfair firings, harassment, and workplace bullying. He posted the text of this presentation on his Facebook profile. His fellow employees posted many messages in support of his statements, and expressed general encouragement on the employee’s Facebook profile, including statements such as “Thank you for having faith in me & helping my voice be heard;” “Keep fighting the good fight;” “Thanks for helping us stay informed;” and “Thank you for speaking for us who do not dare.” The hospital terminated the employee for posting the presentation.

    The Result

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that the hospital violated the law in terminating the employee for his Facebook post because the employee had engaged in protected activity by exercising his right to communicate to the public about an ongoing labor dispute. The NLRB reasoned that virtually all of the subjects covered in the Facebook post involved labor disputes with the employer, and that the employee’s statements were widely approved of by fellow employees.


    The Consequences


    If an employer disciplines or fires an employee for engaging in protected activity, or institutes a workplace rule or policy that would prohibit employees from engaging in such activity, the employer can face serious programs, such as a lawsuit, unfair labor charge, repaying the employees lost wages, and paying their attorneys fees and costs. So this begs the question:


    Should You Fire over Facebook?


    Many companies have disciplined their employees over their social media posts or instituted policies prohibiting certain online activities. But are these employment practices and policies legal? In my next webinar, I will teach you about important labor and employment law issues in the context of social media in the workplace and how to manage employee social media use.


    January 22 | 12:00-1:30 est | $150 Live or OnDemand

    1.5 Hours of CLE Credits Approved in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Nevada

    Approval Pending in California & Georgia

    Register Now for "Should You Fire over Facebook"


    Social media law attorney, author, professor, and keynote speaker Ethan Wall will:


    • Identify protected employee speech under the NLRA
    • Distinguish the lawfulness of discipline for employee social media use
    • Analyze legal from illegal social media policies and rules
    • Teach you how to draft lawful social media policies
    • Set forth techniques to maximize compliance with federal labor law





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