Even If It Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech Is Protected

In it’s 2nd social media report, the National Labor Relations Board aims to protect employees’ rights to speech.  The memo “covers 14 cases, half of which involve questions about employer social media policies…The remaining cases involved discharges of employees after they posted comments to Facebook.”

Writing in The New York Times, Steven Greenhouse goes through some of these cases and helps explain what kind of things employees can say online and what things can rightfully get someone fired.

The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.

Greenhouse also mentions that California and Illinois recently joined 4 other states in preventing companies from forcing workers to hand over their social media passwords.

The author quotes the president of the National Workrights Institute, Lewis L. Maltby: “No one should be fired for anything they post that’s legal, off-duty and not job-related.”

These rulings do not apply to public sector workers, however. And as Greenhouse reminds us, the internet speech of teachers, police officers, corporate execs and college students falls into a bizarro grey area that we are only beginning to grapple with.

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