UPDATED AT 5:35 p.m.
A worker who was allegedly fired for posting negative comments about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page is being championed by the National Labor Relations Board, which announced yesterday that it filed a complaint against the company.
The NLRB's Hartford office sued American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., alleging that the ambulance service illegally terminated the employee, Dawnmarie Souza for the postings, and that the company wrongfully denied her union representation during an investigatory interview. NLRB also charged that the company “maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and Internet posting policy.”
According to the NLRB, after a customer complained about Souza in November 2009, she was asked to prepare an incident report. Souza allegedly requested and was denied representation from her union, Teamsters Local 443. Her supervisors “threatened Souza with discipline because of her request for union representation,” according to the complaint, which was filed by Acting Regional Director John Cotter.
“Later that day from her home computer, the employee posted a negative remark about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page, which drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee,” the NLRB said in a press release. She was fired three weeks later.
In a statement, American Medical Response said it strongly disagrees with the allegations and “believes they are without merit.”
“Although the NLRB’s press release made it sound as if the employee was discharged solely due to negative comments posted on Facebook, the termination decision was actually based on multiple, serious issues,” the statement said. “AMR takes seriously its obligations to the community to provide high quality emergency medical care. In this case, we believe the facts will prove that this was an employee who failed to meet the important standards necessary for us to provide this service to the community.”
According to the NLRB, the agency determined after an investigation that the Facebook postings were “protected concerted activity,” and that the company’s blogging and Internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that barred employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without company permission.
“Such provisions constitute interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity,” the NLRB found.
A hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2011.