Thomson Reuters has reported that on May 2 the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) determined that a New York tour bus driver was illegally terminated from his job after he complained about conditions of his employment on Facebook. The employee, after engaging in Union activity, posted the following to a Facebook page that had been set up for other New York tour guides: “As you all well know, we have a right to organize in this country, a right protected by the US Government. Needless to say I started to agitate for a union. Guess what happened, I stopped being called for work.” Following the post the company terminated the employee, and admitted that the termination was in response to the post, and an associated email.
The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) permits employees to work together in a “concerted” manner to improve their working conditions. This decision by the NLRB continues the Board's trajectory towards providing greater levels of protection for employees in the social media realm. The most common comparison is that the Board sees social media sites such as Facebook as the “new watercooler,” or a means by which employees can communicate with one another about terms and conditions of employment, without fear of retribution. A key factor in this case was likely the page to which the post was made, which was clearly meant to serve as a sounding board for fellow employees.
The NLRB awarded the employee back wages and reinstatement. The employer has suggested that it may appeal.
This decision serves as a victory for employees and victims of retaliation in the workplace. It will be interesting to see how things proceed from here.
The case is New York Party Shuttle LLC and Fred Pflantzer, National Labor Relations Board,No. 02-CA-073340.