A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board permits employees to vent their displeasure with their employers on social media.
The decision was made public in August and involved employees of the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Connecticut. A group of employees were complaining about a state tax withholding mix-up resulting in them owing more than they originally thought they would.
Jamie LaFrance, a former employee of the bar used Facebook to vent about owing the additional taxes. Other employees joined in with their own comments. All were upset about the mistake. Profanity was used and LaFrance speculated that her former boss was a “shady little man” who may have stole the money. This is according to a copy of the conversation included in the NLRB’s decision.
Another employee, Jillian Sanzone was still working at the bar and joined in.
“I owe too,” she wrote. “Such an asshole.”
Thomas Spinella, another employee still working at Triple Play, “Liked” LaFrance’s initial post but did not comment further.
After Triple Play co-owner Thomas Daddona became aware of the posts he fired Sanzone. Daddona said the waitress, who had been with the restaurant since it opened, displayed a lack of loyalty by her comments.
Daddona and co-owner, Ralph Delbuono then fired Spinella for his use of the “Like” button.
The case follows previous decisions on workplace social media policies. After Sanzone and Spinella were fired, an ambulance company, also in Connecticut, were forced to settle with an employee it terminated because of her Facebook posts.
The 3-2 ruling by the NLRB said Triple Play should not have terminated the workers because they were simply acting collectively to discuss a workplace issue. A right protected under the National Labor Relations Act. The board gave Triple Play until Friday to re-hire the employees.
Joseph Yamin, the lawyer representing Triple Play’s owners, said he and his clients would appeal.
Breaking It Down
We have all had differences with our employers. And many times, for economic reasons, we just bite our lip and suck it up. Its part of life. But no one agrees to give up their right to free speech as a condition of employment. Once you leave the workplace you have the right to say whatever you feel. Its called free speech. And the NLRB has agreed to set the legal precedent that you can. What this decision is saying is that an employee has the right to vent about their work situation with other employees. These employees chose to commiserate on social media. Its not illegal. As employees, union or not, you can discuss your problems with your employer and use whatever language you see fit. And even if you say nothing but only agree with the others you are free to do so.
How an employer can expect that you owe them your opinion and loyalty after work is beyond me. Ask any black person and they will tell you that they expect no loyalty from the company they work for. Loyalty is a feelng you get from being treated right. You feel you have an obligation to a company because the company has done right by you and gone beyond the employee/empoyer relationship. That is loyalty and that loyalty gets returned. Just because you agreed to work for a company and they agree to pay you means nothing. You know the company will lay you off or move that job overseas whenever they damn well feel like it. And you’re just out of luck. Haven’t you seen that before? You have the right to free speech and if you need to vent then do it. As long as you don’t do it on the company’s Facebook page or in the office you’re probably safe. Show loyalty when it is shown to you. Otherwise do your job and go home.