Workplace complaints are nothing new. However, the method of venting these complaints has been revolutionized by the Internet. Where an employee might once have vented off some work related steam at the local bar with a few coworkers, today they are taking to social media to make their dissatisfaction known.
This transformation from a momentary utterance to a textual conversation that can be printed, forwarded and reviewed in detail had a detrimental effect on an employee at Skinsmart Dermatology. A group of current and former Skinsmart employees was utilizing Facebook to make plans for an upcoming social event. For awhile, the group was focused on the task, but when a former employee cracked a joke about the employer, a current employee launched into a tirade that featured the words, “FIRE ME … Make my day …”
The current employee’s statements evoked little response from other current employees at the time. Nonetheless, one of those workers brought the comments to the attention of a Skinsmart supervisor who concluded that the statements indicated a clear lack of interest in continued employment on the employee’s part. The employee was immediately fired, but soon decided to challenge the decision by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.
The fired employee felt that her Facebook statements should have been protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because they constituted a concerted activity regarding shared employee concerns. The board put the claim to the test, looking at whether or not the employee’s statements were made on her own behalf or in the interests of other employees as well. Moreover, the board also studied if the statements were an attempt to begin an effort to bring group concerns to the employer.
In this instance, the board found in favor of the employer, pointing out that the NLRA does not protect “mere griping” nor does it protect an “individual gripe rather than any shared concerns about working conditions.” Whether or not the employee will seek an alternative tactic to redress the firing remains unknown. For now, the employer’s decision stands as a right and legal workplace dismissal.
The NLRB advice memo can be viewed HERE.