January 23, 2013
As more workplace conversations take place on social media like Facebook and Twitter, federal regulators are ordering employers to scale back policies that limit what workers can say online, The New York Times reports.
Workers have been fired for posting comments that portray their employers negatively, but labor regulators now say that such blanket restrictions are illegal if they discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another for the purpose of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.
Whether at the office or on Facebook, workers have the right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, the National Labor Relations Board says. The agency has ordered the reinstatement of workers fired for their posts on social networks, but has also found that employers can act against a lone worker ranting on the Internet.
Board officials say they are merely adapting provisions of the National Labor Relations Act, passed in1935, to the 21st-century workplace. But some corporate officials complain that since the law was enacted principally to protect the right of workers to unionize, the agency is just trying to remain relevant as private-sector unions dwindle in size and power. — Greg Beaubien