Read this before you go ham on employees who badmouth your company online.


I’m not sure if we are still in the middle of the “Great Resignation,” the “Great Renegotiation,” or something else entirely. I am sure, however, that I could go for a great piece of coconut cream pie right now.

Additionally, I know that among life’s certainties are death, taxes, and employees complaining about their jobs. And those complaints are usually filed on social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Reddit.

I understand that your company may be inclined to take matters into its own hands when employees complain on social media about work by, err, “facilitating” their exit from the company. But before you hand out any pink slips, read this post.

The government has some advice for you.

Late last month, the National Labor Relations Board released this advice memo. It’s about an employer who terminated an employee for a Facebook post blaming attrition on lousy management practices.

That sounds a lot like insubordination. So, what could possibly be wrong with that?

For one thing, there’s this federal law called the National Labor Relations Act. Scroll down to Section 7 of the Act. You’ll find language that guarantees employees to right to “engage in … concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…” The National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the Act, describes this “protected concerted activity” as giving employees “the right to act with co-workers to address work-related issues in many ways. Examples include: talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions.” (my emphasis). “Other working conditions” would include bad management practices.

One post may be protected.

But, what’s so “concerted” about a single Facebook post by one employee? Well, concerted activity includes statements by a lone employee addressing her co-workers seeking to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or statements directed to management honestly communicating a group complaint. Protected preliminary communications to co-workers include statements made to elicit support from fellow like-minded co-workers for a personally held view about a working condition.

So, let’s say that:

  • I’m upset with management — if my bosses are reading this, I’m not.
  • I know that others are ticked off at our bosses too — I don’t. Really, I don’t.
  • I post about it on Facebook.

My employer — I love you! — cannot discharge, discipline, or threaten me for, or coercively question me about this “protected concerted” activity. Otherwise, if I lose my job over it, I’ll get my job back with back pay.

This is true in any industry that the Act covers, union or non-union.

Hopefully, this doesn’t come as a surprise to you. It’s just been a while since I’ve blogged about social media and the workplace. Thank you very much, COVID-19.

Limits on speech?

Does this mean that employees can post on social media about their employers with impunity? No, employees can lose the Act’s protection by saying or doing something egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false or by publicly disparaging an employer’s products or services without relating complaints to any labor controversy.

Bottom line.

Watch your step before disciplining an employee who badmouths the company on social media.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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