Thursday, November 11, 2010

National Labor board: Can't fire employees for Facebook comments

Monika Plocienniczak reports on CNN.com that the National Labor Relations Board (NRLRB) issued a complaint against American Medical Response, an Ambulance company that fired one of their employees after she had made some negative comments about her job on Facebook.


AMR, of course, denies that the woman was fired for her Facebook comments. They say that she was fired because of multiple complaints about job performance and her treatment of patients.


In some ways it doesn't matter why she was fired. It does matter what the final decision is. If a court agrees with the NLRB, then venting about your boss on Facebook becomes protected speech under the National Labor Act. That is very important. Right now employers can monitor Facebook and determine who is hired, who is promoted, who is demoted using what they find there. If Facebook comments fall under the National Labor Act then the won't be able to do that. It may not prevent employers from using social media to look at prospective employees, but it will make it illegal for social media to be used to determine who to fire, promote or give raises.


One of the biggest problems with social media is that it makes parts of our lives that used to (and still should) remain private are public. Now those private things are being used to determine whether persons would make good employees. We know things now about past Presidents that might have, had they been generally known at the time, been major scandals. Maybe even have derailed their presidency. John Kennedy was a womanizer. So was Clinton. Whatever you may think of his womanizing (and his politics), Clinton was one of the most astute statesmen the U.S. has had in the Oval Office.


Much of what is on Facebook is "not safe for work" and much isn't safe for your career (current or future) either. The bad thing is, much of that isn't really a good indicator of what kind of employee a person will be. Employers shouldn't be allowed to use it for that purpose.