Last updated: December 21, 2011 - 9:10pm
Companies are facing a growing number of civil charges over disciplinary actions spurred by online comments from employees, who are using the National Labor Relations Act to try to win back their jobs or get settlements. The 1935 labor law, also known as the Wagner Act, is enforced by the federal National Labor Relations Board agency, or NLRB. The law allows employees the right to join together to improve their wages and working conditions, which includes discussing pay or other work-related issues with each other or with their employer. The law can also protect an individual who is speaking on behalf of one or more co-workers.
Bottom line: there must be group activity, in intention or result, for it to be considered "protected concerted activity" that is allowable under the law. Mere griping isn't protected. The agency is also citing employers for maintaining online policies that are overly broad in ways that restrict workers' rights, such as the right to discuss online their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers while not at work. The problem for employers and workers is that the guidelines being issued by the NLRB are slowly evolving case by case, making it tricky to ensure compliance with the law now being applied to what some labor experts call the virtual office water cooler. Here are the guidelines for what workers and employers can do on social media.
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