Remember, what you say can come back to haunt you.
The National Labor Relations Board and Dawnmarie Souza agreed yesterday to end a lawsuit over Souza’s firing, which occurred after she made some derogatory remarks about her employers on Facebook.
The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but we do know that Souza will not be returning to work at the same company.
The woman’s employer, a Connecticut ambulance company, is also changing its blogging and Internet use policies in ways that will no longer prohibit employees from talking about work online, even if such talk constitutes what the company called “online badmouthing” at the start of Souza’s hearing.
Especially since Souza was writing on her personal computer, at home and on her own time, her remarks about her employers were considered protected speech, according to the NLRB. The ambulance company’s social media and Internet policies were in violation of certain laws that protect employees’ right to talk about wages, working conditions and other factors.
As NLRB regional director Jonathan Kreisberg told the Associated Press, “The fact that they agreed to revise their rules so that they’re not so overly restrictive of the rights of employees to discuss their terms and conditions with others and with their fellow employees is the most significant thing that comes out of this.”
Still, the variable location, timing, tone and content of Facebook comments mean that not all Facebook posts are protected speech; employees should still exercise good judgement when discussing work and personal matters online.
We’re also following a similar case in which a high school student was suspended for making vulgar and derogatory remarks on Facebook about one of his teachers. Stay tuned to see if that case goes to court.