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NLRB Alleges Worker's Wrongful Termination for Online Venting

An employee of an ambulance service company was asked by her employer to prepare a written response regarding a customer complaint against her. The employee says that she asked for the assistance of a union representative in the matter, but was denied.

She then went home and vented by making negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook, being joined in that activity by other co-workers. She was fired soon afterward.

The National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") has now issued a complaint against the company on her behalf, calling the firing a wrongful termination. NLRB regional director Jonathan Kreisberg calls the case "ground-breaking" for being the first to challenge a firing in the context of comments made on a social networking site.

The NLRB states that employees are protected by federal law when, in discussing their employer or working conditions, they are engaging in "concerted activity," defined as including "two or more employees discussing pay or other work-related issues with each other."

That was precisely the case with the disgruntled worker. Moreover, says Kreisberg, "she did this on her own time in her own home." He adds that, "This case is different because in this situation it happened online and the company's rules were unlawfully broad."rongful

The company disputes that, on more than one ground. First, it argues that the comments against the supervisor, because offensive, were not protected under federal law. Second, it states that the termination had nothing to do with the worker's complaints. She was fired, the company maintains, because of multiple complaints about her behavior over time.

An attorney for the company says, "This is not about Facebook."

A labor board hearing on the case will be held in January 2011.

Related Resource: www.cnn.com "Labor board: Facebook vent against supervisor not grounds for firing" November 10, 2010

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