Oh, F*©k No: Administrative Law Judge Rules that Employees’ Expletive-Laced Facebook Posts are not Protected Under the National Labor Relations Act

With the increasing prominence of social media, employers have been rightfully concerned about the impact of employees’ out-of-work statements on the work place—particularly when it comes to the reputation of the employer. In the last few years, the National Labor Relations Board has held that even offensive language can be protected concerted activity [See previous Orrick blog postings on this topic from September 25, 2012 and May 16, 2013]. However, apparently there is a limit: an administrative law judge held last week that the expletive-laden Facebook posts of two youth center employees crossed a line. Read More

Party Foul! NLRB Orders Reinstatement and Back Pay for Party Bus Guide After Finding Facebook Postings Amount to Protected Union Organizing Activity

Providing yet another example of how online social networking can amount to protected conduct under the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB ruled earlier this month in New York Party Shuttle, LLC and Fred Pflantzer, CN: 02-CA-073340 that a New York City tour guide’s Facebook postings constituted protected union organizing activities. The board held that New York Party Shuttle LLC unlawfully discharged Fred Pflantzer when it refused to give him new assignments after he posted Facebook messages criticizing the company’s employment practices. Read More

Freedom of Speech in Social Media – UK Employee Unlawfully Demoted for Christian Gay Marriage Facebook Posts

In the recent UK case of Smith v. Trafford, the Claimant was awarded just £98 (approx. $150) by the English High Court for a successful breach of contract claim against his housing trust employer (the “Trust”). The Claimant, Mr. Smith, had posted two comments on his Facebook wall expressing his views on gay marriage. One comment stated “equality too far” and the other comment elaborated on his reasons for opposing gay marriage. In the Trust’s view, Mr. Smith’s comments amounted to a serious breach of its Code of Conduct and Equal Opportunities Policy. He had a significant number of colleagues as his Facebook friends and the Trust was concerned that his personal views would be interpreted as its own. Consequently, the Trust found Mr. Smith guilty of gross misconduct but rather than dismissing him, demoted Mr. Smith to a non-managerial position with a resulting 40 percent reduction in his pay. Read More

Employer Requests for Social Media Passwords Under Scrutiny

Following a growing trend among states, Ohio recently introduced legislation to bar employers from requiring current or prospective employees to provide access to their private social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter.  Although to date Maryland is the only state with a law on the books prohibiting employers from requiring or requesting access to a current or prospective employee’s private social media accounts (Maryland’s law does not go into effect until October 1, 2012), approximately a dozen other states are considering similar legislation, including California, Delaware, Illinois and New York.  Click here for a list of the state bills. Read More

Ninth Circuit Limits Federal Criminal Liability Reach of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to Hackers Only, Not Employees in Violation of Company Policy

Employees cannot be criminally prosecuted by the federal government for breach of an employer’s computer policies, according to the Ninth Circuit’s April 10, 2012 en banc opinion in U.S. v. Nosal.  The 9-2 en banc panel (with a strongly worded dissent) opted to narrowly construe the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) to avoid creating a world in which employees could be held criminally liable for “workplace dalliances” like accessing social media sites which may be in violation of a company policy that work computers may be used for business purposes only.  The opinion reversed the Ninth Circuit’s earlier April 28, 2011 panel decision and further deepened a split among circuits on this issue. Read More