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Entries in National Labor Relations Board (7)

Monday
Oct082012

Fired for Facebook Posts? NLRB Rulings Draw Lines

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The National Labor Relations Board added a little more clarity to the debate surrounding social media after two recent rulings called one corporation’s policy “overly broad” but also stated that social media postings are not protected under federal labor law.

In recent weeks, the NLRB, an independent federal agency that protects employee rights, ruled that “overly broad” policies are unlawful after the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 371 filed charges against Costco Wholesale Company alleging its social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act.

The Costco policy stated: “Employees should be aware that statements posted electronically (such as online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the Company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation, or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.”

The NLRB said the overly “broad” policy could be interpreted by employees as an action to prohibit section 7 of the NLRA, which deals with employee rights.

But the NLRB also weighed in on a case involving a car salesman and his series of Facebook postings.  An administrative law judge ruled that the firing of a salesman at Knauz BMW was not unlawful because the employee’s Facebook updates weren’t protected by federal law.

The administrative judge ruled that the Chicago-area dealership did not act unlawfully by firing the salesman after he posted a picture of a Land Rover accident, including the caption “Oops.”  The accident took place after a 13-year-old accidentally hit the gas during a test drive and ran the car into a pond.

“We want to be sure employees know that under federal labor law, they have a right to discuss their wages and working conditions with each other, and to join together to try to improve them.  Those rights have existed since the National Labor Relations Act was enacted in 1935,” Nancy Cleeland, director of public affairs at NLRB, told ABC News.

“Today we are merely extending those protections to new forms of communication, such as Facebook.  But not all work-related social media posts are protected, and some behaviors can cause an employee to lose protection.  We compiled these cases to give both employers and employees a better idea of what is protected and permitted,” Cleeland continued.

A post by an employee on a social media website may be protected by the National Labor Relations Act if it relates to working conditions, wages and includes concerted activity.  In the case of the BMW salesman, his Facebook postings mocking the luxury dealership for serving hot dogs and bottled water, including the caption “No, that’s not champagne or wine, it’s 8 oz. water,” may have been protected by the NLRA.  But the Land Rover picture was not protected speech and that was what got the salesman fired.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr122012

Fired Orange Workers File Federal Complaint to Contest Firing

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.) -- Eight of the workers fired from a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on March 16 for wearing orange have filed a federal complaint against their former employer, contesting the firing.

Attorney Donna Ballman, who represents the eight of the 14 support staff, filed the complaint, alleging unfair labor practices, with the National Labor Relations Board.

"We hope our case will help change the law for other Americans," Meloney McLeod, one of the workers who filed the complaint, said in a statement. "Nobody should be fired because of the color of their shirt. It's wrong."

The Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm declined to comment about the complaint to ABC News.

Ballman said Elizabeth Wellborn's husband gathered most, though not all, of the employees who were wearing orange that day and they were "told that management thought they were wearing orange shirts to protest working conditions, and they should pack their things and leave," Ballman said.

Ballman said some workers may have been wearing orange to mimic the uniform color often used by the Florida Department of Corrections. Those workers may have been protesting new work rules imposed by a new manager in early March. She said, for example, that they could not speak to co-workers over the walls of their cubicles, even to discuss work-related matters.

The complaint filed with the labor board stated in part, "I believe I was discharged for engaging in and/or for being suspected of engaging in concerted activity for the purpose of mutual aid or protection with coworkers and for the purpose of causing a chilling effect on other coworkers who might wish to engage in concerted activity in the future. In addition, my former employer imposed restrictive covenants on me which I believe violate my rights under the [National Labor Relations] Act, particularly in Paragraph 7."

Section seven of the law states: "Employees shall have the right to self-organization...to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection...."

The law makes it unlawful for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7."

"They couldn't go to the break room and get coffee while on the clock," Ballman said. "There were suddenly lots of new restrictions on them. Some of them were upset about those new rules."

Ballman said, "Different people were wearing orange for different reasons that day, but the fact is it doesn't matter."

She said there have been cases where firing employees because management didn't like their shirts were found to be unlawful, including when AT&T workers wore shirts that said "Inmate #" on the front and on the back said "Prisoner of AT$T," which was activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

In Florida, employment is presumed to be at will, which means that unless stated otherwise by something like an employment contract or a piece of legislation, an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, said Kerri Stone, a law professor at Florida International University.

Janice Doble, 50, a fired copy room worker, also joined in filing the complaint. She said she was wearing orange because she was going to a happy hour with coworkers and was not protesting working conditions.

"Orange happens to be my favorite color. My patio is orange," Doble told Florida's Sun-Sentinel newspaper. "My lipstick was orange today."

Since the 14 workers were fired, three have reportedly been re-hired by the firm, possibly after explaining they were not a part of a protest, Ballman said.

Ballman is releasing a book this fall called Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Handle Your Workplace Crisis Before You Quit, Get Canned, Or Sue the Bastards with Career Press.

"Everybody who can be fired for no reason is an 'orange American,'" she said. "Everybody that can be fired for wearing an orange shirt to work should be outraged by this."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec092011

NLRB Dismisses South Carolina Labor Suit Against Boeing

Stephen Morton/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that it has dismissed its high-profile labor complaint against Boeing, Inc., after the complainant in the case, the Machinists Union, ratified a massive contract with the airplane manufacturing giant Thursday night.

The labor complaint has been the subject of national outrage and has served as a litmus test of sorts for the GOP presidential candidates, who have used the labor board as an example of what they call President Obama’s “job-killing” policies.

The complaint charged that Boeing participated in unfair labor practices after it moved part of the production of its 787 Dreamliner airplane from Washington to South Carolina, a state where laws are less friendly to unions. About 1,000 jobs were created in South Carolina at the new Boeing plant.

“This is the outcome we have always preferred, and one that is typical for our agency,” NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon said in a statement announcing the withdrawn charges. “I am pleased that the collective bargaining process has succeeded and that the parties have begun a promising new chapter in their relationship.”

The Machinist Union announced a tentative contract with Boeing last week that guarantees production of Boeing’s newest airplane, the 737 MAX, will be built by union members in Washington. That contract was ratified Thursday with 74 percent of union workers supporting it.

“When we announced the tentative contract agreement we said if our members ratified it that we considered it to have resolved our issues with Boeing,” the union’s spokeswoman Connie Kelliher said.

Kelliher said this is the first time production of an entire line of planes has been guaranteed in the union contract.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has been investigating the NLRB case against Boeing, praised the board’s decision to drop the charges, but said his investigation into the board would continue.

The Oversight Committee’s Ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said in a statement that he hopes his committee will drop their investigation now that the case has concluded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

NLRB Under Fire for Proposed Changes to Union Election Process

National Labor Relations Board(WASHINGTON) -- Members of the business community faced off against the National Labor Relations Board again Tuesday to voice their opposition to the board’s proposed election changes.

This is the second day the board has heard testimony from business groups, union advocates and researchers about the proposed changes, which would not affect cases currently before the board.

The NLRB has caught serious flack in recent months over the highly contentious Boeing case, in which the board charged that the airline manufacturing giant retaliated against unionized workers at its Washington plant by building a new manufacturing plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state.

The current rule-change controversy revolves around the board’s proposal to mandate a seven-day window between when an employer receives their employees’ petition to form a union and when the pre-election hearing is set.

Business groups claim that one week is not enough time to process and respond to the petition, while union advocates say the shortened window prevents employers from using long wait periods to discourage employees from voting in favor of union membership.

Maurice Baskin, who testified before the board on behalf of Associated Builders and Contractors, said there is a “sense of outrage” in the business community over the proposed changes.   

“In the midst of this terrible economy the NLRB is proposing new and burdensome regulations that appear to have no purpose other than to promote union organizing,” Baskin said.

Baskin said the changes are “unlawful on their face” and “particularly offensive to small businesses” who do not have labor lawyers on staff and are often “completely at sea” when they receive a petition for union membership.

Baskin argued that seven days is not nearly enough time for employers to research their legal options, consult with a lawyer and discuss possible union membership with their employees.

“It takes months to reach the point in the federal courts that the Board now wants to reach in seven days,” Baskin said. “We submit that that’s impossible and there is no justification for that timetable.”

Elizabeth Bunn, who testified on behalf of the AFL-CIO, said employers purposefully drag out the voting process in order to scare workers away from union membership.

“Under the status quo, the employer is able to hang a sword of delay over the union,” Bunn said. “The goal is not to inform. The goal is to delay, harass, confuse and intimidate.”

She urged the board to adopt the “modest reforms” because they reduce “unproductive litigation,” allow workers and unions to communicate better, modernize the election process, create greater certainty and uniformity and allow more workers to vote in union membership elections.

Bunn said that “under the current rules, the board is hamstrung from fulfilling its mission of protecting workers who seek an election to form a union” because employers exercise too much control over the process.

The board will take online comments about the changes until Aug. 22. NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland said implementing any changes would be a long process and that “the end of September would be optimistic” for any reforms to go into effect.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun292011

Obama Breaks Silence about Boeing v. NLRB Labor Dispute

PRNewsFoto/Continental Airlines(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama broke his silence Wednesday about the dispute between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over a proposed plant in South Carolina.

The move by the NLRB to block Boeing's plan to move a plant to the Southern state has incited a wave of indignation from Republicans and the business community, who accuse the group of endangering jobs in an already weak economy.

The president on Wednesday put distance between his administration and the labor board stressing that it is “an independent agency.”

“We can't afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we're competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world,” Obama said at a Wednesday’s White House press conference.

The NLRB is suing Boeing for allegedly moving part of the production of its 787 Dreamliner jet from Washington, a unionized state, to South Carolina, a right to work state, to retaliate against Washington workers for going on strike.

“As a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate -- they have to follow the law, but that's part of our system,” Obama said. “What I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can't come to a sensible agreement.

“And obviously, the air -- airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage.  I want to make sure that we keep it,” the president added.

Nearly every Republican presidential candidate has spoken out against the case. The pro-business Workforce Fairness Institute called on each candidate to make their opposition to “the NLRB’s job-killing actions” a centerpiece of their campaigns.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Labor Board Says Firing Employee Over Facebook Comments May Be Unfair, Company's Internet Policy Too Broad 

Photo Courtesy - NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time ever, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint that an employer engaged in unfair labor practices for firing an employee who made derogatory posts about her supervisor on Facebook.

The labor board issued the complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut last week for firing medical technician Dawnmarie Souza after she criticized her supervisor online. The board also said that the firm had an overly-broad employee Internet policy.

Images of Souza's Facebook page, provided by a lawyer for the company, show remarks including, "looks like I'm getting some time off. love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor," using the company's terminology for a psychiatric patient. Another post describes the supervisor with expletives.

Calls to Souza were not immediately returned.

An attorney for American Medical Response, which provides emergency response and dispatch services, said that Facebook comments were not the reason for the termination of Souza on Dec. 1, 2009. John Barr, a partner with Jackson Lewis, said there were two complaints about Souza from patients and hospital staff within 10 days of each other from October to November 2009.

Barr said the company, based in Colorado, began an investigation into the two behavioral complaints. Souza, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 443 union, requested that a union representative be present during an investigatory interview on Nov. 8, 2009. The request was denied by her supervisors, which is when Souza engaged in "concerted activities with other employees" criticizing her supervisor on Facebook, according to the NLRB complaint.

"The chief reason she was terminated was her rude and unprofessional conduct," said Barr. "The two complaints were the reason for the termination. If she had not engaged in this inappropriate conduct, it's very unlikely that she would have been terminated."

The labor relations complaint against American Medical Response also stated the company's "blogging and Internet posting policy" in its employee handbook is too broad.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov082010

Can Workers Be Fired for Criticizing Their Boss on Social Networking Sites?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The National Labor Relations Board has accused American Medical Response of Connecticut of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her page at Facebook.com, according to The New York Times.

The case, viewed by some as ground-breaking, represents the first time the labor board has intervened on behalf of workers, arguing that the criticisms of one’s boss or company on a social networking site “is generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements,” writes The New York Times.

An administrative law judge will begin hearing the case on Jan. 25.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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