Employer’s Social Media Policy Found Not To Violate Employees’ Rights, by Jason Shinn of Shinn Legal, PLC, Michigan Employment Law Advisor
A recent social media case involving the NLRB should be cause for celebration for employers. Specifically, in Landry’s Inc., Case No. 32-CA-118213 (June 26, 2014), an NLRB administrative law judge (ALJ) had found a social media policy concerning its subsidiary, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurants, Inc., did not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Initially, the General Counsel argued that Bubba Gump’s social media policy infringed on employee’s rights under the NLRA because it would tend to prohibit employees from discussing terms and conditions of employment with coworkers or third parties. That social media stated as follows:
‘While your free time is generally not subject to any restriction by the Company, the Company urges all employees not to post information regarding the Company, their jobs, or other employees which could lead to morale issues in the workplace or detrimentally affect the Company’s business. This can be accomplished by always thinking before you post, being civil to others and their opinions, and not posting personal information about others unless you have received their permission.’
The ALJ agreed that without ‘more,’ the first sentence could violate the NLRA. But the ALJ noted that the social media policy did not outright restrict speech on job related issues – job related subject matters – but, instead, the manner in which such issues are being discussed and debated, i.e., being civil to others and their opinions:
‘Without more, it would be reasonable for employees reading this language to conclude that the Respondent generally frowns upon all job-related postings of any type. However, the cautionary language is modified by the language in the next sentences which may be understood to clarify that the 40 avoidance of morale problems may be ‘accomplished’ by simply being civil to others and their opinions.’
From an employer’s perspective this case is a good result. But it is also a reminder that the NLRB’s General Counsel continues to closely scrutinize employers’ social media policies. For this reason, it continues to be important to carefully draft social media policies that will give ALJs the opportunity to sensibly read the policies so as to not find a violation of employees’ rights under the NLRA. . . .