The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against the Buffalo, N.Y. nonprofit organization Hispanics United, saying it was wrong to fire five workers for writing Facebook posts that criticized their working conditions.
According to the NLRB, Facebook discussion is “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act.
Was it just me, or did anyone else read that and think the NLRB was vindicating unprofessionalism?
As a journalist, I’m all for the First Amendment.
As a working professional, I don’t find it very career-minded to slander your boss or coworkers on a social networking site.
Everyone’s been there. We’ve had a bad day, or aren’t happy in general with our job. We go out for a drink with friends and bitch about it.
But in the 21st century, we can stay home and have a drink while bitching online about our jobs.
The difference is, when you’re out with friends, it’s doubtful your employer is going to be lurking in the background, listening to your complaints. On the Internet, however, nothing is private.
There’s a difference between telling a few close friends at your local watering hole, and your 300 online “friends,” which probably includes those people you hated in high school but added as a friend anyway.
Ultimately, online slander reflects negatively on the employee.
At my last job, many of my Facebook friends were contacts for work. If I had been so negligent as to post comments about any job disenchantment, they would’ve been on me like white on rice.
Think about it – how many of your Facebook friends constantly post status updates about how much they hate their jobs?
I was happy to discover Evil HR Lady, one of my favorite blog sites, agreed that employers should have the right to terminate employees who abuse the First Amendment by attacking the company online. She compares it to junior high antics.
Evil HR Lady (real name: Suzanne Lucas) said that bad judgment isn’t limited to online behavior.
“If you lack the critical thinking skills to say, ‘Hmmm, if I post that my boss is a jerk, my boss just might find out about it,’ then you probably lack the critical thinking skills to do your job,” Lucas says.
For that matter, who’s to say what might happen in the future? The Hispanics United workers might have trouble finding other work once employers find out they’re not afraid to publicize a company’s shortcomings.
If you really want to use Facebook as an outlet for work rants, there’s a little device on your page that blocks anyone you choose from reading the posts.
Or you could just deny friend requests from your coworkers.