Saturday, February 12, 2011

Can Your Facebook Posting Get You Fired?

Employee Fired For Facebook Posting “Wins” Lawsuit
The title of this posting is a little confusing to the average person but so is the case. 
Dawnmarie Souza, a paramedic for American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc., posted comments on her Facebook page on the same day she was suspended from work after refusing her supervisor, Frank Filardo's request to write up a report on a complaint about her own performance.   Souza Facebook remarks sparked supportive postings from her co-workers to which Souza responded with additional negative comments.  After the suspension, Souza was ultimately terminated.   Since Souza was a union employee she requested union representation which Management rejected.
The Souza case caught the attention of the National Labor Relations Board which claimed AMR “illegally terminated [Souza] who posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page” and that the company “maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy.”  Further contending that [Souza’s] Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity, and that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provision, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission. Such provisions constitute interference with employees in their right to engage in protected concerted activity.
AMR’s response was that Souza was terminated “based on multiple, serious complaints about her behavior” which included her negative Facebook postings related to her supervisor.
This case which some have called “groundbreaking” was scheduled for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on Tuesday, where the NLRB would have argued that Souza's firing was improper, in part because her Facebook postings about her supervisor, outside the workplace, were protected activities, even they were posted on the Facebook or the Internet.
Rather than participate in the hearing, AMR agreed to settle the case with Souza.  The terms of the settlement which have not been completely disclosed are reported to include payments to Souza and conditions she must meet as well as AMR’s agreeing to revise its "overly broad” policy regarding blogging, Internet posting, and communications between employees.  This position has obviously concerned many employers. 
Since Souza was a union employee, the legal community is questioning how this case will impact private employers in Pennsylvania.  My perspective … in the next blog.

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