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Social Net Speech Is Protected? Not So Fast!

Steven Greenhouse, a writer with the New York Times, reports that many of the blanket restrictions on employee social network activity are illegal. There has not been any new legislation cited, but the National Labor Relations Board is simply applying old laws to new technology.

National Labor Relations Board

…workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.

So what does that mean?

In Greenhouse’s article, several cases of termination have been over-turned and forced employers to re-instate their former employees. Those cases correlated the nature of the termination to be against a worker’s right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution.

On the other hand, termination of employees who could not prove to the board that their infraction had been in fact, discussion of work conditions, were affirmed. Personal venting, being offensive or crude is not protected by the National Labor Relations Board.

Many view social media as the new water cooler,

said Mark G. Pearce, the board’s chairman, noting that federal law has long protected the right of employees to discuss work-related matters.

All we’re doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology.

It’s still a very slippery slope for both sides. Employers want to keep a good reputation, and employees want their rights of speech protected. Until further legislation moves forward, the safe bet is to be careful of what you say to whom you say it.

That’s called tact.

Click here to read the full article.