After a few delays the National Labor Relations Board released a statement announcing a settlement had been reached in the firing case of Dawnmarie Souza, a former EMT with an ambulance company in Connecticut. Souza lost her job after complaining about her boss on Facebook with other coworkers due to a company policy that prevented employees from talking negatively about the job anywhere, at any time.
The settlement has two parts: the public part requires the company to revise its rules regarding employee conversations about work to make them less restrictive. While the case did not produce a legal precedent, it certainly sets a societal one–restricting employee conversation online is not an acceptable or reasonable solution.
The second part of the settlement involves Souza’s actual firing. The company stated that she was fired for other HR issues and any resolution there is a direct and private settlement between her and the company, but I’m sure details will emerge soon.
So what does this mean? A few things:
First, employers are being forced to move into the social age whether they want to or not. Its simply not reasonable to expect that employees won’t talk about their jobs online. Most people spend more time at work than any other place, and work is a defining trait for lots of people. Its going to be a topic of conversation wherever people congregate, including the web.
However, that doesn’t mean employees are free to just bash their bosses. Souza’s case received attention because she worked in a union-protected position. Many other people don’t, and their bosses can hire and fire them at will. Employees still need to remember their job is ultimately not their own–it belongs to the company and they’re just borrowing it, so if the boss doesn’t like what she sees online, she can take it back without a moment’s notice.