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National Labor Relations Board Puts Off Worker Facebook Flap

Publication Date: 
January 25, 2011
Jennifer Martinez

Professor William B. Gould IV talks with Politico's Jennifer Martinez about the question of whether comments made on social networking sites should be considered protected speech by the National Labor Relations Board:

Much to the chagrin of employers, workers have started taking to Facebook and other social networks to vent about their jobs, bosses and other matters. But whether it’s lawful for companies to fire an employee for posting these negative comments on a social network has become a federal matter.

A National Labor Relations Board judge today postponed a hearing into whether a medical transportation company in Connecticut had illegally fired an employee for criticizing her supervisor on Facebook as settlement talks continue, an NLRB spokesman said. The hearing was rescheduled for Feb. 8.


“This is a very ordinary, garden variety case that comes up countless times under the law,” said Stanford Law professor William Gould, the former chairman of the NLRB during the Clinton Administration. “For the life of me, I don’t see what it is about Facebook that would make this [speech] unprotected. The [social] network is a more effective way of getting the message to more people, but I think that simply that it’s more effective and can reach a larger audience doesn’t make it unprotected.”