The NLRB takes a stand on swearing, Facebook

27 Oct

Labor laws remain important even for those not part of a union.

A recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board revealed that firing people for having online discussions on Facebook is against the National Labor Relations Act. This was the case even though neither of the people who had been fired were unionized. Because rules regarding Facebook and other social media platforms are still unfocussed, companies should look carefully at how they handle their policies about the Internet. Those in the business of implementing human resource solutions for a company should additionally consider swearing in the workplace, which is protected by the NLRB under certain circumstances.

The case
Two people were fired by the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille for having a discussion about the bar's owners that was filled with profanity, according to Lexology. One part of the conversation involved "liking" a statement by the other. The NRLB ruled the conversation was a protected concerted activity, according to BABC Employment Law Insights, even though the conversation contained profanity.

Lexology reported that the conversation began with a comment containing expletives. A person who liked the comment and a person who posted a reply with a swear were both fired.

In fact, the NRLB has become more expansive of late when dealing with protections for insulting or profane conduct. For example, Starbucks fired an employee who said swear words to the manager because he felt that person was not providing enough help when he was preparing drinks for customers. In the case, the firings were deemed improper by the NLRB.

Firing people who swear
The Starbucks case, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, involved an employee who cursed out his boss twice. Additionally, the man, Joseph Agins, attempted to unionize four Starbucks in Manhattan between 2005 and 2007. Later, Agins and several other workers came to the store while they were off duty to protest being unable to wear union pins. Agins had a confrontation with the assistant manager, which escalated until Agins said several offensive comments in front of the customers at the store. The comments included several swear words.

A few months later, Agins was fired by Starbucks. The NRLB ultimately ruled that although the man had cursed out his employer in front of customers, rather than in a backroom or a warehouse, he was still protected. Additionally, the NRLB found that the assistant manager was not disciplined for his role in the incident at all.

Comments are closed.