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Judge's ruling protects employees who post about work on Facebook

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are now so common that they have become an extension of our daily lives and conversations. This includes our conversations with coworkers. But have you ever posted something job-related on Facebook and then feared you may have said too much?

If so, you're not alone. In some highly publicized cases around the country, workers were fired for their online commentary. Earlier this month, however, an administrative law judge ruled that being fired for complaining about your job on Facebook constitutes wrongful termination and violates the National Labor Relations Act.

The case concerned five employees who were all fired from the same company in October 2010 for job-related postings on Facebook. One employee first posted that a coworker had been complaining about the employees in a certain division, saying they didn't do enough to help their clients. In reaction to this post, seven other employees posted their own impassioned responses.

Several days later, five employees were fired by a supervisor who said that the Facebook posts constituted bullying and harassment. However, the judge's recent ruling has overturned this termination, and he ordered the company to reinstate all five workers.

In his ruling, he explained: "Employees have a protected right to discuss matters affecting their employment amongst themselves. Explicit or implicit criticism by a co-worker of the manner in which they are performing their jobs is a subject about which employee discussion is protected."

As a word of caution, this recent ruling may not protect everything posted on Facebook. It is still a good idea to use discretion when posting anything, especially if it is work-related. However, it is good to know that employees have the protection to discuss their jobs with coworkers outside as well as inside the office.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "NLRB judge: Employees can bitch about their jobs on Facebook," Alison Frankel, Sept. 12, 2011

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