I didn't see this one coming.
Remember the Connecticut ambulance worker who was fired after complaining about her supervisor and her job on Facebook? Though the dispute was eventually settled, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint on her behalf.
The board asserted dismissal under those circumstances may have violated federal labor laws. Conversations about wages and working conditions between coworkers on Facebook are equivalent to such discussions around the watercooler, the board said.
From the complaint:
This is a fairly straightforward case ... whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that.
That was in February. Now, the NLRB plans to file a civil suit against an employer for illegal discipline of an employee following a comment she posted on Twitter. The New York Times reports:
The board asserts that the company's Reuters news division violated the reporter's right to discuss working conditions when her supervisor reprimanded her for posting a message on the Twitter service that said, "One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members."
The reporter, who leads an employee union at the company, indicated she made the comment in response to a request from the company for ideas on improving working conditions. A supervisor called her at home the next day to tell her company policy prohibited comments that might damage the company's reputation.
For their part, company representatives told the NYT they did not think the phone call constituted a reprimand or discipline and were surprised that the NLRB planned to file a complaint.
If the board has its way, then, an employee's right to "engage in concerted, protected activity with co-workers to improve working conditions" online will be protected, regardless of the social media used.