Monday, February 14, 2011

Impact of The Souza Settlement

So what does Dawnmarie Souza’s case against American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. mean to Pennsylvania employers?  Most experts don’t think it will have much of an impact.  First of all remember than Souza was a union employee and a large part of the claims in her suit were that AMR violated the collective bargaining agreement.  Most of us don’t have collective bargaining agreements with our employers. 
The National Labor Relations Board’s website says that the Nation Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects employees’ rights to act together, with or without a union, to improve working terms and conditions, including wages and benefits. These are known as protected concerted activities.  Some examples of protected concerted include:

-       Two or more employees addressing their employer about improving their working conditions and pay
-       An employee speaking to his/her employer on behalf of him/herself and one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions
-       Two or more employees discussing pay or other work-related issues with each other
-       Refusing to do any or all of these things

While an employee generally does not have a protected right to free speech when dealing with private employers, the NLRB tried to assert that Souza’s conversations with her co-workers on Facebook were in the nature of self-organization and collective bargaining.  Additionally as an "at will" employee, an employee can be fired for any reason as long as they are not fired based on race, age or other protected status.

In order for the same argument to be effective with a private employer, it is my opinion the NLRB will need to argue and prove that the Facebook postings were meant to initiate, advance, or discuss self-organization or collective bargaining otherwise it is not likely covered by the NLRA.  Nonetheless companies should periodically review their internet/social media policies to ensure that they are not overly broad.

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