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Labor board says employees can't be fired for Facebook complaint

Have you ever had one of those days when work isn't going very well and you want to commiserate with your coworkers? Many Los Angeles employees have, and it is common for people to air their grievances online on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

As we do more and more of our socializing and interacting in the digital space, it's natural to carry over some of the interactions with have with our coworkers to that domain was well. Such was the case in a recent dispute before the National Labor Relations Board, when five employees had a discussion on Facebook about a problem at work. Specifically, they discussed comments by an unnamed coworker that they were not doing enough to help their clients.

The employees were terminated after the Facebook conversation was discovered by their employer, with the explanation that their online complaints violated the organization's anti-harassment policy. They disagreed, and recently won the support of the NLRB as well. The Board affirmed that the employees have a right to discuss work issues online, and extended protection to those types of discussion under a New Deal-era law protecting employee picketing and strikes.

They found that the content of the discussion was a protected communication about workplace concerns, and that the employees that engaged in the discussion had united around a common cause.

As many California readers know, employers cannot prohibit worker organization or collective action, and it is illegal to retaliate against employees for making complaints about workplace conduct.

Employees who think they have been the victim of retaliation or a wrongful termination may be able to recover through a lawsuit.

Source: Slate Magazine, "Go Ahead, Complain About Your Job on Facebook," Josh Eidelson, Jan 3, 2012.

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