Talking Shit About Your Job Online Is Now Protected Speech

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Earlier today, our sister blog the Snitch reported that we don't have to invite our bosses to happy hour, and now we have even more good news for those who talk shit about their jobs/coworkers/bosses (i.e. every goddamn one of you). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a recent ruling that says employees can express their opinions on social media channels without fear of getting fired. According to the New York Times, the NLRB "says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook."

But before you go Tweeting to your heart's content about how your boss is a douchecanoe, there are a few caveats.

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One such case of wrongful termination cited was at Hispanics United of Buffalo, a nonprofit social services provider in upstate New York, where:

... a caseworker threatened to complain to the boss that others were not working hard enough. Another worker, Mariana Cole-Rivera, posted a Facebook message asking, "My fellow co-workers, how do you feel?"

Several of her colleagues posted angry, sometimes expletive-laden, responses. "Try doing my job. I have five programs," wrote one. "What the hell, we don't have a life as is," wrote another.

Cole-Rivera and four other caseworkers were fired, but the NLRB later found them to be unlawfully terminated, and that such speech is protected.

The NLRB was, however, less sympathetic toward the Arizona Daily Star reporter who, bored on the job, tweeted: "What?!?!?! No overnight homicide. ... You're slacking, Tucson." Another began, "You stay homicidal, Tucson."

There are still many gray areas when it comes to social media policy, but most of us can agree that calling for people to be murdered is not a great idea, especially if you're a journalist, and neither is posting hateful or threatening speech. As an employee, you do have the right to criticize an employer, and "communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits, or working conditions."

We still think that complaining about your job in a public setting is gauche, but as NLRB Chair Mark Pearce put it, "Many view social media as the new water cooler ... All we're doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology."

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