Guest post by John M. Miller, Esquire, Stockholder in Henderson Franklin’s Tort & Insurance Litigation Group

I recently spoke on the topic of “Establishing Social Media Policies, Contracts and Legal Advice for PR Professionals” to members of the Gulf Coast Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in Naples. Social media continues to be a hot topic for employers and thought it would be good to share a few items that were discussed.

In the Beginning

Under the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) developed an employee-favored social media policy. The NLRB broadly protected private employees in their social media activity. Private employees could not be fired or punished for posting certain information on social media. Specifically, private employees are permitted to engage in “concerted activity” which is a fancy term for discussing their working conditions on social media. But, what does it really mean?

What exactly may an employee say about his or her work on social media without being reprimanded or disciplined?

Continue Reading Can Employers Regulate an Employee’s Social Media Content?

National_Labor_Relations_Board_logo_-_colorContinuing in our series of Employment Law IQ, what would you do?

Scenario:  Valerie recently graduated from FGCU and got her first job, a position as HR Director for Hire You Too, a local, non-union staffing agency. Though Hire You Too has been in business for a number of years, Valerie is the company’s first dedicated HR employee. Eager to establish herself as an important member of the Hire You Too team, the first thing Valerie does is review Hire You Too’s Employee Handbook. While most of the Handbook looks good, Valerie wants to revise the Acknowledgement, because she remembers from her “Labor 101 Class” that the NLRB has cracked down on at will employment disclaimers.

Which of the following statements should Valerie avoid for the Acknowledgement?

A. I further agree that the at will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified, or altered in any way.

B. The relationship between you and Hire You Too is employment at will. This means that your employment can be terminated at any time for any reason, with or without cause, by you or Hire You Too.

C. Employment with Hire You Too is employment at will. Only the CEO of Hire You Too has the authority to alter the at will employment relationship, and then only in writing.

D. Valerie can choose any one of the three, since Hire You Too is a non-union workplace and does not have to worry about the NLRA.

Continue Reading Employment Law IQ: At Will Employment Disclaimers – A Violation of NLRB?

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") issued a news release announcing a proposed rule which would impose a new notice requirement on employers subject to the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA").  The notice would inform employees of their rights under the NLRA, including their right to unionize.

According to the press release, the NLRB "believes that many employees protected by the NLRA are unaware of their rights under the statute.  The intended effects of this action are to increase knowledge of the NLRA among employees, to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute, and to promote statutory compliance by employers and unions." 

The proposed rule is open for a 60-day comment period.  If the rule passes, covered employers would be required to post the employee rights notice where other notices (i.e. FLSA notices, FMLA notices, OSHA notices, etc.) are typically posted.  Additionally, an employer may be required to post the notice electronically, if that is the primary method by which the employer communicates with its employees.

A fact sheet is available here.  The full text of the proposed rule is available here.  Check back with us for an update after the comment period ends February 22, 2011.

A provision in fictional ACME, Inc.’s employee handbook states:

"All employees are strictly prohibited from discussing their salary or wage information with one another. Violation of this policy may lead to discipline up to and including termination."

This provision, or one similar to it, is undoubtedly found in handbooks or other work rule documents in many workplaces. Is there a problem? Yes—and it could become more pronounced if not rectified soon by ACME and/or other employers.

Many employers are surprised to learn that the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") applies to non-union workplaces. It does, and Section 7 of the NLRA guarantees that all employees, regardless of union status, have the right to engage in "concerted activities for the purpose of . . . mutual aid or protection." This means that all employers, both union and non-union, are prohibited from interfering with their employees’ right to discuss terms and conditions of employment, including wages and benefits, with each other.

In a relatively recent National Labor Relations Board decision, the NLRB found that an employer’s "Confidentiality" rule, which prohibited employees from discussing disciplinary information and salary, "plainly infringes upon Section 7 rights" as it "explicitly restricts discussion of terms and conditions of employment."

Now that we know stifling discussion about wages and benefits risks violation of the NLRA, what about other ramifications?  Another consideration after the jump

Continue Reading The NLRA…Not Just for Unionized Workplaces