The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), has made headlines yet again for its position on employee use of social media. This time, as reported by the New York Times, the NLRB is up in arms over the termination of a New Jersey employee due to a comment she made on Twitter.
Thomson Reuters, the current target of the NLRB, asked employees to tweet ways that the company could be made a better place to work. Deborah Zabarenko complied with the request and tweeted: “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.” The reference is to the Newspaper Guild of New York, of which Zabarenko is a member. The Union and employer have been engaged in contract negotiations for several months.
According to the NYT, an agent of the employer called the employee at home to remind her that the company’s policy prohibits employees from posting comments that would damage the company’s reputation. She was not, however, subject to any discipline.
The NLRB takes issue with the company’s call, threatening to file a complaint if the parties do not reach a settlement before April 29. The problem, according to the Union? The employee’s tweet is, says the Union, protected by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRA gives employees the right to discuss the terms and conditions of work and to act collectively to make changes to those terms and conditions. Of the handful of cases in which the NLRB has pursued legal action in response to an employer’s social-media policy or the enforcement thereof, this case seems to have the most merit—at least based on this set of limited facts.