Workplace Likes on Facebook Are Legally Protected, Says Court
According to a recent Second Circuit Court Court of Appeals ruling, Facebook Likes are federally protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) if they’re about something that has to do with your workplace.
The case the court ruled on, Three D LLC v. NLRB, involved Jillian Sanzone and Vincent Spinella, a pair of employees at the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille, located in Watertown, CT. When they found out that they owed more state income taxes than expected due to a filing error made by their employer — and after normal on-site complaints had been voiced — the conversation moved to Facebook, where they were joined by a former employee, Jamie LaFrance.
LaFrance posted: “Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money … W[*]f!!!!” She followed this up with a second update blaming the gym’s boss, “It’s all [the boss’s] fault. He didn’t do the paperwork right. I’m calling the labor board to look into it bc he still owes me about 2000 in paychecks.”
Spinella Liked this second post. The thread continued with the boss being referred to as a ”shady little man“ and with allegations that he’d deliberately pilfered money from the employees. Sanzone called their boss an ”$%!hole.” When Triple Play saw the conversation, both employees were fired.
Since the NLRA protects discussions of workplace issues from being used as cause for dismissal, the court found that, colorful as the online conversation was, it still related to a genuine problem the employees had and was thus speech protected by the statute.
There will undoubtedly be further refinements to the legal status of things that get said on the internet, but for now, it appears companies can’t fire employees just because the employees Like to complain about work.