A Connecticut ambulance company has settled with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB ) a lawsuit involving the firing of an employee who had published negative remarks about her boss on her Facebook page.
A lawsuit filed by the NLRB against American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. (AMR) on October 27, 2010, argued that the company illegally terminated Dawnmarie Souza for criticizing her supervisor on her personal Facebook page.
NLRB said Souza's negative comments were protected speech under federal labor laws. The lawsuit also alleged that AMR illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview, and maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy that contained unlawful provisions.
Souza wrote on her Facebook page, Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor, referring to AMR's code for a psychiatric patient, and called her boss a scumbag as usual, using her home computer, after she was denied the right to seek union help before she responded to a supervisor's questions about a customer complaint.
AMR said it had fired her following complaints about her work. Souza served as an emergency medical technician for the company.
The case has received widespread attention for its groundbreaking attempt to set legal limits on employers' Internet policies.
The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed but workplace policy reforms were detailed.
Under the settlement, AMR has agreed to change its blogging and Internet policy that barred workers from making disparaging remarks against the company or their supervisors. The company also will revise another policy that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without permission.
Both the policies prevented AMR workers from discussing wages, hours and working conditions with others, NLRB said.
Under the settlement approved by Hartford Regional Director Jonathan Kreisberg, Souza didn’t get her job back, but AMR agreed to revise its 'overly broad rules' to ensure that they do not improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work, and that they would not discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions, the NLRB said in a statement.
The company will no longer deny employee requests for union representation when meeting with managers. Moreover, employees, who request union representation, would no longer be threatened with discipline, according to the agency, the agency said.
Souza said she has no intentions of rejoining the company.