Social networking criticism of employers may be a "protected activity" under the NLRA.

Updated: November 17, 2010

The case involved one of the country's largest emergency response services. The employee, a union member, was interviewed by her supervisor concerning a customer complaint about her work. The employee requested union representation during the interview, but the request was denied. Later that day, using her home computer, the employee made negative comments about her supervisor on her Facebook page, referring to him as a "17," a term used for psychiatric patients, and using expletives to describe him. A number of the employee's co-workers also weighed in, and were generally supportive of her comments. This led to further postings by the original employee criticizing other supervisors. American Medical Response initially suspended and subsequently terminated the employee based on its policy prohibiting employees from making "disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee's superiors, co-workers and/or competitors."

In the complaint, the Board alleges that American Medical Response illegally denied union representation to the employee and enforced its "overly broad company policy on blogging and internet posting." Specifically, according to the complaint, the company's policy as well as the implementation of the policy unlawfully interfered with the employee's right to engage in protected concerted activity.

American Medical Response denies the complaint's allegations and, according to news reports, has said that the employee's termination was based on "multiple, serious issues" relating to rude and discourteous conduct towards customers, and was not solely attributable to the Facebook postings.

A hearing is scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge on January 25, 2011.

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