School and other employers should think twice before trying to restrict workers from talking about their jobs on Facebook or other social media.
That’s the message the government sent on Monday as it settled a closely watched lawsuit against a Connecticut ambulance company that fired an employee after she went on Facebook to criticize her boss.
The National Labor Relations Board sued the company last year, arguing the worker’s negative comments were protected speech under federal labor laws. The company claimed it fired the emergency medical technician because of complaints about her work.
Under the settlement with the labor board, American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. agreed to change its blogging and internet policy that barred workers from disparaging the company or its supervisors. The company also will revise another policy that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without permission.
Both policies interfered with longstanding legal protections that allow workers to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers, the board said.
“I think it certainly sends a message about what the NLRB views the law to be,” said Jonathan Kreisberg, the NLRB regional director in Hartford who approved the settlement.
“The fact that they agreed to revise their rules so that they’re not so overly restrictive of the rights of employees to discuss their terms and conditions with others and with their fellow employees is the most significant thing that comes out of this,” Kreisberg said.
Terms of a private settlement agreement between the employee, Dawnmarie Souza, and the company were not disclosed, but Kreisberg said the parties reached a financial settlement. Souza will not be returning to work there.