Employees’ ability to communicate with one another about working conditions and other workplace concerns is essential to their ability to assert their legal rights. Both federal and New Jersey employment laws prohibit employers from interfering with employee efforts to organize and communicate about important work-related matters. In late 2022, a major social media company fired an employee after he posted a message to the company’s platform that related to a change in management that was ongoing at the time. In October 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint alleging that the company broke the law by firing the employee. The case could impact New Jersey employee rights, depending on how far it goes in the administrative law system. At a minimum, the case offers a useful look at how social media usage affects workers’ rights.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has protected workers’ right to organize themselves for collective bargaining purposes for almost ninety years. Section 7 of the statute goes beyond collective bargaining to protect a much wider range of “concerted activities for the purpose of…mutual aid or protection.” Under § 8(a)(1) of the NLRA, employers may not “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” who are exercising their § 7 rights.
Workers who believe their employer has violated their rights under the statute can file a charge with the NLRB. The agency will investigate the charge and decide on its merits. If it finds that a charge has merit, it will attempt to get the parties to agree on a settlement. The NLRB’s regional directors have the authority to file complaints when parties cannot reach settlements.
Administrative law judges (ALJ) hold hearings and rule on complaints. Either party may appeal an ALJ ruling to the NLRB’s Board members, who are appointed by the president to five-year terms. The Board can adopt the ALJ’s ruling or issue its own ruling. Board decisions can be binding on ALJs all over the country.
The social media company involved in the NLRB’s complaint is headquartered in San Francisco but maintains other offices around the country, including one in New York City. It came under new ownership in late 2022, leading to widespread layoffs and other changes. For example, the company had a fairly generous policy on remote work before the ownership change, allowing many employees to continue working from home after most COVID-related public health measures ended. The company’s new leadership sought to roll that policy back.
In November 2022, the new CEO allegedly told employees that failing to show up for work in person would be considered a resignation. An employee posted a message to the company’s social media platform urging employees not to quit. Instead, he suggested that they should wait to be fired by the new management.
The company reportedly fired the employee about five days later. He filed a charge with the NLRB several months later. In October 2023, the NLRB filed a complaint alleging that the company violated § 8(a)(1) by firing the employee. The next step in the process will be for the case to go before an ALJ.
If you believe that your employer has violated state or federal law, and caused you harm by doing so, a skilled and experienced employment attorney can help. The Resnick Law Group advocates for workers in New Jersey and New York in a wide range of legal claims. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can assist you, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.