The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that a Facebook discussion on an employer's tax withholding calculations and an employee's "like" of the discussion constituted "protected, concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

When employees at Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Connecticut discovered that they owed more in state taxes than they had anticipated, a workplace discussion ensued and the owners planned a meeting to broach the issue. At the same time, a former employee posted this "status updated" on her Facebook page: "Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf!!!"

When two current employees joined in the Facebook discussion — one merely "liking" a comment — Triple Play fired them for disloyalty.

The NLRB, in Vincent Spinella v. Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille, ruled that the Facebook discussion was "protected, concerted activity" under the NLRA because the subject matter concerned workplace issues and thus did not amount to disloyalty. The ruling noted:

"It is beyond question that issues related to wages, including the tax treatment of earnings, are directly related to the employment relationship, and may form the basis for protected concerted activity within the meaning of Section 7."

The restaurant was ordered to restore the terminated employees and make whole any wages they had lost as a result of their firings. The establishment was also ordered to rewrite its social media policy.

The NLRB has been vigorously enforcing employee rights in the era of cyber-communications. To help you navigate the board's many rules and interpretations, Personnel Concepts has prepared a Workplace Social Media Policy Program. Get your copy today.