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Shocking, shocking: Many companies insist that their employees give them their social network logins.

An article in The New York Times, Even if it Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speak is Protected, describes how the National Labor Relations Board is finally taking some steps and enforcing them against employers who automatically fire or otherwise penalize people’s comments on social media.  Not merely public employers (like the government) but the rulings apply to almost all private sector employees.

It’s about time that protection and regulation for workers’ sakes have been tackled seriously by the NLRB and it’s bringing 21st century concepts to the way people communicate now.

The NLRB’s stance is that it is illegal for companies:

[T]o adopt broad social media policies—like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer—if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions

For example, Mariana Cole-Rivera, a caseworker at Hispanics United of Buffalo, a non-profit social service agency, posted the following on Facebook:

“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.
Ms. Cole-Rivera and 4 other co-workers were fired.  But in a 3-1 decision, the NLRB reinstated the workers.  It held that they were unlawfully terminated because the posts were “the type of ‘concerted activity” for “mutual aid” that is expressly protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

However, the NLRB upheld the firing of an Arizona Daily Star police reporter for his social media postings:

Frustrated by a lack of news, the reporter posted several Twitter comments.  One said, “What?!?!?!  No overnight homicide…you’re slacking Tucson.”  Another began “You stay homicidal, Tucson."
In this reporter’s case the NLRB said the posts were offensive, not concerted activity and not about working conditions.  Personal venting was bad but acting in concert with the aim of improving wages and working conditions is protected by federal law.

The legal distinction between the two rulings is pretty broad.  For instance, what if people responded to the reporter’s “ranting” by ranting themselves ad infinitum?  Most of the websites I comment on have “ranting” commenters.  I wish the NLRB luck with its task of determining what is ranting.

In order to remain on the right side of the law, we must act in concert for mutual aid with the aim of improving wages and working conditions.  Federal law protects the ability of social media to operate as it was intended, as an ecosystem of touching base with one another.  

Psst!  Dare I say the “u” word (unionize)?  If all of us organize, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, whose expressed purpose is to supply legal templates to be implemented for the sake of corporations), and other anti-labor, anti-union groups will have a harder time preventing employee sharing.

Long live acting in concert, mutual aid and improving wage and working conditions!

Originally posted to mariesamuels on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:28 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I should create a fake facebook account (6+ / 0-)

    That way, I could give it to my employer if they ask. "Nothing objectionable there!" they could say, seeing just a few con-controversial links.

    The be able to demand your passwords is no different than demanding that your house be be bugged. It also violates the privacy rights of other people. Many people's facebook posts are only visible by their facebook friends. But if I give away my password, I am taking their private communications and allowing them to be revealed. Plus, it violates the terms of service of social media sites.

    This is about domination of employees. It is about letting employees know that their private political statements are subject to the approval of the company. It lets the employer have more information than they are entitled to.

    It is no different than bugging our house.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:42:29 AM PST

    •  Or just say, (0+ / 0-)

      "I don't do social media" and feign ignorance.

      Of course, if they find out later then that might be problematic, but I don't see why a person's private Internet usage should have any bearing at all on employers so long as there is no slander involved.

    •  Isn't TOS violations a felony? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites

      Isn't that what they got Aaron Swartz with, at least in part?

      So your (potential) employer is asking you to commit a felony?  That has to be illegal.  

      "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

      by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:40:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's what I do (0+ / 0-)

      The only place online you can find my real name or any descriptive info is on LinkedIn. All my other social web efforts are done under pseudonyms that are only given out to family and friends. Co-workers only get that info if I leave the organization, or they do. My facebook, etc. are never accessed through any computers or phones that are company property. I even try to avoid accessing it on company premises, in case someone's looking over my shoulder. I do it on lunch, outside or on a bathroom break.

      Your company is ALWAYS looking to see what you're up to online, no matter how much they claim to respect your privacy. Just assume that and plan accordingly.

    •  Act shocked that a (0+ / 0-)

      prospective employer would demand you turn over the means to allow him/her to impersonate you on social media (ruin your reputation, engage in libel, etc.), change your settings, spy on your friends and relatives, etc.

      Nobody needs your password who isn't you, any more than a Russian Mafia scammer needs your SS# or bank account particulars. It ought to be illegal to demand such.

  •  I've never had this happen to me, but (0+ / 0-)

    I always felt that an appropriate response would be to say that, if I'm supposed to be a public-relations arm of the company 24/7, then my pay and benefits should reflect that.

    I wonder if we're going to have rules spelled out about this sort of thing. Maybe you can say certain things in certain ways, but not with profanity-- so it would be OK to say "My boss is a turkey" but you couldn't say "my boss is a fascist shitdick" for example.

    Or maybe you could complain about conditions you endure in general, but aren't allowed to call out managers or co-workers by name-- so you could say "what crappy day at work, that whole place is run dysfunctionally" without naming names.

    Business are still trying to adjust to the "human" side of the internet. I suspect we'll see more rules and regs formulated about this sort of thing as time goes by.

  •  How is social networking any different... (0+ / 0-)

    than heading to the bar after work and venting about the boss?  Could they require you to record your every word when around any co-worker?  It's asinine.  

    I'd like to see a law passed that made it illegal for companies to require your social media log in passwords.  I mean why not require that employees allow their phones to be tapped?

    I make damn sure never to use social media at work out of fear of keystroke logging programs.  

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

    by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:39:07 AM PST

    •  One is fairly private, the other considerably less (0+ / 0-)

      so.  The odds of the former embarrassing the company are a lot lower than venting on FB or Twitter.  

      •  Can I require passcodes for all politicians? (0+ / 0-)

        They work for me afterall, and I don't want them talking shit about constituents in private.  

        On twitter most folks use a handle so they're not readily identifiable.  

        And on facebook, if our page is set to private - it would be no different than venting at a family gathering about how your boss is an ass.  

        And even if facebook is on public, as long as I don't identify my workplace in the bio blurb section I am not in any way representing the company.  

        "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

        by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:56:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  One thing nobody seems to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob B, Cassandra Waites, Joieau

    have mentioned is that if your boss has your social media passwords, they can pose as you and post things on your accounts that could get you fired.  And how can you prove it was your boss who posted the rant that got you canned, and not yourself?

    You can't.

    Which is why you should never, ever give your passwords out to anyone (although you should have all your social media and other internet sites you frequent listed for your heirs so they can send death certificates in the event of your death and get your accounts closed - no need to have passwords for that, either.)

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:39:23 AM PST

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