Employee gripes on Facebook: Can we draw a line?

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in Firing,Human Resources

Q. You’ve written that we can’t fire employees for their “concerted activity,” like talking about pay or bosses, and we may have to live with certain complaining via social media. But are there limits? — T.N., Utah

A. Yes. You can draw the line at comments that are not re­­lated to working conditions. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) counsel recently said that complaining itself may not be protected activity.

For example, an employee who worked at a residential facility for homeless people was disciplined for posting on her Facebook page that it was “spooky” working overnight in a “mental institution.” The NLRB said the employee did not engage in “protected concerted activity” because the employee did not mention any terms or conditions of em­­ployment, did not discuss her Facebook post with her co-workers and none of her co-workers responded to the post. Plus, the employee was not seeking to induce group action and her activity was not an outgrowth of employees’ collective concerns.

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