NLRB Rulings on Social Media and the Workplace

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a series of rulings on the use of social media by employees to complain about or criticize their employers.

This article in the New York Times summarizes the rulings and advisories. From the article:

The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.

In addition, the NLRB’s general counsel issued three reports concluding that many companies have social media policies that are too broad and prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law.

Two lawyers offer advice for companies:

Denise M. Keyser, a labor lawyer who advises many companies, said employers should adopt social media policies that are specific rather than impose across-the-board prohibitions.

Do not just tell workers not to post confidential information, Ms. Keyser said. Instead, tell them not to disclose, for example, trade secrets, product introduction dates or private health details.

But placing clear limits on social media posts without crossing the legal line remains difficult, said Steven M. Swirsky, another labor lawyer. “Even when you review the N.L.R.B. rules and think you’re following the mandates,” he said, “there’s still a good deal of uncertainty.”

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