Well, yes, in certain situations, anyway.

Background: In Connecticut, a famous incident involving American Medical Response, which fired an employee for her bad-mouthing comments on Facebook, led to legal action by the local office of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which in turn led to a settlement and shudders in the business world that it might have to put up with endless employee tirades online.

Into the fray stepped the NLRB General Counsel, whose office recently issued three memoranda of advice on the subject.

The bottom line is that social media commentary about one's place of work is safeguarded by labor law and the NLRB only if it amounts to protected concerted activity, not individual griping, complaining or slandering.

The NLRB General Counsel guidance makes clear that it is perfectly fine to discipline employees for their social media jottings when:

  • the comments are merely expressions of an individual's gripe or frustration with an individual in management rather than an attempt to initiate or induce coworkers to engage in group action.
  • the comments are made to those who are not co-workers of the employee (and the employee wasn't Facebook friends with any co-workers).
  • merely communicating with friends about happenings at work.

In the earlier AMR incident, the NLRB concluded that the terminated employee's Facebook ramblings were just continuations of "protected concerted activity" with her co-workers on the job—a protected discussion continued by a different means.

Lone wolves, beware!