The nation's labor laws needed a status update. With more workers finding themselves in trouble for comments they have made on social media websites, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has released a set of guidelines on what is -- and is not -- protected social media conduct.
The rules are the result of both established precedents for workers' rights as well as the NLRB's experience with prior social media cases. In the broadest terms, employees have long been protected from employer retaliation when engaging in a "concerted activity" to improve their working conditions. In deciding what to protect, the NLRB will continue to look for further constructive action, as opposed to an individual gripe. (Nasty wall posts are most likely not going to be protected.) And while the NLRB is more likely to protect actions made by a group, with or without the help of a union, there is precedent for the NLRB protecting individuals who seek to improve labor conditions on their own.
The rules come after a spate of labor cases involving social media. Three of the more famous ones, Morton House, the Wal-Mart case and JT Porch, presented complicated scenarios for the NLRB. Is it enough that a worker is sharing wall posts with fellow employees, even if the comments do not amount to a plan for further action? Those cases, in which the identities have been protected, are joined below by examples of more egregious employee infractions on social media. (For instance, it's probably never wise for a teacher to post comments on his students' pages about their looks.)
Below are 10 wide-ranging examples of workers running afoul of their employer because of comments they made on Facebook.