NLRB Sets Hearing in Facebook Case
The Oct. 27 complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. alleges it fired an employee last December because she criticized a supervisor on her Facebook page, which is "protected concerted activity" in this case, according to the board.
A hearing is set for Jan. 25, 2011, before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge in Hartford, Conn., in a case involving an employee allegedly fired because she criticized a supervisor on her own Facebook page. NLRB filed its complaint Oct. 27 against American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc.; the employee, identified in the complaint as Dawnmarie Souza, was a member of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 443 and requested union representation for an investigatory interview on Nov. 8, 2009, that she thought would bring disciplinary action against her, but the request was denied, according to the complaint.
The complaint says the company terminated Souza because she violated these two paragraphs of the Blogging and Internet Posting Policy in its employee handbook:
- "Employees are prohibited from posting pictures of themselves in any media, including but not limited to the Internet, which depicts the Company in any way, including but not limited to a Company uniform, corporate logo or an ambulance, unless the employee receives written approval from the EMSC Vice President of Corporate Communications in advance of the posting;
- "Employees are prohibited from making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the Company or the employee's superiors, co-workers and/or competitors."
EMSC is Emergency Medical Services Corporation of Greenwood Village, Colo., which owns American Medical Response. AMR claims to serve more U.S. communities and customers than any other private ambulance service in the country.
The complaint alleges that American Medical Response of Connecticut fired Souza "because Souza assisted the Union, and to discourage employees from engaging in such activities," and thus has interfered with and restrained their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
According to the board, the paragraphs in the blogging and posting policy constitute interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity. Nancy Cleeland, the board's director of public affairs, said protected concerted activity often involves a union but doesn't have to involve one. "It's activity that involves a group trying to improve their working conditions and their wages," she said.
Policies like this one are coming up more frequently in board actions, she said. Still, she described this case, No. 34-CA-12576, as "definitely unusual and among the first times we have dealt with this. This is likely another step in trying to figure out what's OK and not OK to tell employees not to do," she said.
Cleeland said American Medical Response of Connecticut had not filed an answer to the complaint as of Nov. 4; the answer must be received on or before Nov. 10, according to the complaint.