I can’t blame you if last month’s decision from the National Labor Relations Board, left you asking the question: “Are there no limits to what employees can get away with on social media?” The Board decision, in case you missed it, reinstated an employee who went on Facebook and called his boss a “NASTY MOTHER F*&KER” and, then added, “F*&k his mother and his entire f*&king family!!!!”
So, yeah, I’ll admit it. The Board’s decision leaves me wondering how far an employee can go when discussing the terms and conditions of employment.
Still, I’m here to reaffirm that there are limits. Indeed, when an employee uses social media to discuss matters unrelated to the workplace, there’s probably no protection available.
Take for example, this UPI story from Fred Lambert about a veterinarian named Lindsey who posted a picture of a cat on Facebook with the caption: “My first bow kill, lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through its head! Vet of the year award … Gladly accepted.” Over at CNN.com, Ben Brumfield reports here that “callers rang the phones hot at Washington County’s Animal Clinic, where Lindsey worked, to vent their outrage. Web traffic crashed its website.”
And then there’s this story from David Stephanides at Wolters Kluwer Employment Law Daily about the firefighter who directed a series of disparaging Facebook posts at both a police officer and the officer’s entire police department. An arbitrator denied the firefighter’s grievance that his subsequent firing for the Facebook comments violated his due process rights and constituted disparate treatment.
So, while the Board’s recent decision has sufficiently blurred the line between fair and foul when employees talk about work, you do not have to tolerate other inappropriate employee use of social media that goes beyond discussion of working conditions.