In the fall of 2010, a worker at Hispanics United of Buffalo received a text message from one of her fellow employees stating that she was going to “discuss her concerns regarding employee performance” to their executive director. According to phone and text message conversations, she had been criticizing fellow employees for quite some time, often commenting that she felt that many of the employees at HUB “did not provide timely and adequate assistance to clients.”
The employee receiving this message didn’t feel that her coworker’s assessment of their fellow employees was accurate and attempted to warn them of the impending complaint by making a post on her Facebook. Four other employees rallied in her defense, stating that the complaints were untrue. Their executive director, however, felt that these comments on Facebook qualified as harassment, and fired the five employees.
The employer’s decision had many people in the community, as well as a few across the nation, criticizing the employer’s involvement in matters that occurred outside of the workplace, not to mention infringed on the worker’s right to freedom of speech. Many people also pointed out that the employees’ wrongful discharge violated their right to strike and picket.
The National Labor Relations Board agreed, siding with the employees who had been unfairly terminated. Just before Christmas, the five employees were awarded back-pay wages and the employer was ordered to rehire the five employees that had been fired.
Despite the victory, many critics point out that if laws do not catch up with the growth of social media, then many more cases like this could happen in the future and with increased frequency.
Source: Slate Magazine, “Go Ahead, Complain About Your Job on Facebook,” Josh Eidelson, Jan 3, 2013