It seems like every week there are a couple of social media-induced lawsuits in the news. And there is no end in sight, as people try to figure out (again) what speech is free and what speech is slanderous and damaging. Here are a couple of recent lawsuits in the news.
NLRB sues not-for-profit in firing of workers for Facebook posts
The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint in the firing of five employees who complained on Facebook about working conditions at Hispanics United of Buffalo, a not-for-profit that provides social services to low-income clients.
One employee posted a comment on her Facebook page by a co-worker who complained that other employees did not do enough to help the organization's clients. This was followed by at least five other employees defending themselves and pointing out the excessive workload and poor working conditions.
The employees who pointed out the issues with the organization were then fired on the grounds that their comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post
The complaint is subject to a June 22 hearing in the NLRB's Buffalo office unless a settlement is reached.
NLRB upholds firing of tweeting newspaper reporter
Ironically, the NLRB recently held that an Arizona newspaper had the legal right to fire a reporter over the content of messages he was posting to Twitter. In September 2010, Arizona-based Arizona Daily Star fired its crime and public safety reporter for publishing what the paper considered "unprofessional and inappropriate tweets" using his Twitter account.
He was reprimanded initially for criticizing the paper's copy editors. He was asked to stop tweeting regarding matters related to his workplace. Afterwards, he began tweeting about issues that had to do with his job as a crime reporter, including:
• Aug. 27: "You stay homicidal, Tucson. See Star Net for the bloody deets."
- Aug. 30: "What?!?!? No overnight homicide? WTF? You're slacking Tucson."
• Sept. 10: "Suggestion for new Tucson-area theme song: Droening [sic] pool's ‘let the bodies hit the floor.' "
• Sept. 10: "I'd root for daily death if it always happened in close proximity to Gus Balon's."
• Sept. 10: "Hope everyone's having a good Homicide Friday, as one Tucson police officer called it."
THE NLRB ruled on the firing, saying that it did not violate a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that protects communications by employees as long as they relate to working conditions or employment terms.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.