Many employees in the United States have had their share of experiencing days that that make it tempting to use social media to voice out their complaints about their job or boss. Some people have actually done this while many others have exercised restraint and caution. This may be due to the fact that they know that their status updates and comments can be seen by others in their workplace. Although some social networking services like Facebook allow you to hide your status updates from certain people, this is still not a foolproof way to ensure that your boss will never lay eyes on your rants regarding your job.
Unknown to many employees, a lot of companies actually monitor their employees’ social networking activity. Is their staff saying anything negative about the company? Are they posting derogatory remarks that can damage the company’s image? Monitoring employees’ social networking activity is only understandable, as companies do need to protect their reputation and defend themselves against false accusations from disgruntled, dissatisfied employees. However, where does one draw the line? Can companies actually fire employees who are caught posting negative comments about them?
Although there have been instances when people get terminated from their job because of careless Facebook posts, the truth is that companies cannot just lay off an employee for airing their complaints on social media sites; there is legal basis for this. The law that protects employee rights against this kind of termination is not a new one and it comes from the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which is implemented by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In 2012, NLRB determined that NLRA can be applied to protect employees who criticize their employers or bosses on Facebook and other social media sites under certain conditions. According to NLRA, employees can join together “to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Simply put, they can organize themselves and come together for the purpose of bargaining with their employer and for each other’s protection.
Under this law, if an employee posts a complaint about his or her job on social media with other employees supporting the post with comments linked to the original post, this can be considered as a group of people banding together for protection. They are, in effect, involved together in a concerted activity that provides an avenue for mutual protection. Thus, their employer cannot terminate them.
However, if one person posts a similar status update and no one else “liked” or gave a similar comment connected to the original post, then that person is not covered by the Act. That single post can become a basis for termination, and the employee can even be in danger of facing a libel case.
Before you think that it is completely acceptable to air out your complaints against your superiors and your employer on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites as long as your buddies follow suit with comments in support of what you said, you must keep in mind that everything you post against your job or your superiors is subject for review by the NLRB. If they decide that your post falls under the provisions stated in the Act, you are off the hook. However, if it does not, you may be vulnerable to termination.
At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to keep your rants off the social networking pages. There are better ways of communicating work related issues to your boss. Using proper communication channels can open the way for healthy discussions that are mutually beneficial to both the employees and the employers; your colleagues may even thank you for it.