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NLRB on social media

NLRB on social media

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Published by: dave_jamieson1222 on May 31, 2012
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05/20/2014

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OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSELDivision of Operations-Management
MEMORANDUM OM 12-59
 
May 30, 2012
 
TO: All Regional Directors, Officers-in-Chargeand Resident OfficersFROM: Anne Purcell, Associate General CounselSUBJECT: Report of the Acting General CounselConcerning Social Media CasesAttached is an updated report from the Acting General Counselconcerning recent social media cases. /s/ A. P.Attachmentcc: NLRBURelease to the PublicMEMORANDUM OM 12-59
 
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REPORT OF THE GENERAL COUNSELIn August 2011 and in January 2012, I issued reportspresenting case developments arising in the context oftoday’s social media. Employee use of social media as itrelates to the workplace continues to increase, raisingvarious concerns by employers, and in turn, resulting inemployers’ drafting new and/or revising existing policiesand rules to address these concerns. These policies andrules cover such topics as the use of social media andelectronic technologies, confidentiality, privacy,protection of employer information, intellectual property,and contact with the media and government agencies.My previous reports touched on some of these policiesand rules, and they are the sole focus of this report, whichdiscusses seven recent cases. In the first six cases, Ihave concluded that at least some of the provisions in theemployers’ policies and rules are overbroad and thusunlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. In thelast case, I have concluded that the entire social mediapolicy, as revised, is lawful under the Act, and I haveattached this complete policy. I hope that this report,with its specific examples of various employer policies andrules, will provide additional guidance in this area.___________/s/_____________Lafe E. Solomon Acting General Counsel
 
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 Rules on Using Social Media Technology and onCommunicating Confidential Information Are OverbroadIn this case, we addressed the Employer’s rulesgoverning the use of social media and the communication ofconfidential information. We found these rules unlawful asthey would reasonably be construed to chill the exercise ofSection 7 rights in violation of the Act. As explained in my previous reports, an employerviolates Section 8(a)(1) of the Act through the maintenanceof a work rule if that rule “would reasonably tend to chillemployees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.”Lafayette Park Hotel, 326 NLRB 824, 825 (1998), enfd. 203F.3d 52 (D.C. Cir. 1999). The Board uses a two-step inquiryto determine if a work rule would have such an effect.Lutheran Heritage Village–Livonia
,
343 NLRB 646, 647 (2004).First, a rule is clearly unlawful if it explicitly restrictsSection 7 protected activities. If the rule does notexplicitly restrict protected activities, it will onlyviolate Section 8(a)(1) upon a showing that:(1) employeeswould reasonably construe the language to prohibit Section 7activity; (2) the rule was promulgated in response to unionactivity; or (3) the rule has been applied to restrict theexercise of Section 7 rights.Rules that are ambiguous as to their application toSection 7 activity, and contain no limiting language orcontext that would clarify to employees that the rule doesnot restrict Section 7 rights, are unlawful. See UniversityMedical Center, 335 NLRB 1318, 1320-1322 (2001), enf. deniedin pertinent part 335 F.3d 1079 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Incontrast, rules that clarify and restrict their scope byincluding examples of clearly illegal or unprotectedconduct, such that they would not reasonably be construed tocover protected activity, are not unlawful. See TradesmenInternational, 338 NLRB 460, 460-462 (2002).The Employer in this case operates retail storesnationwide. Its social media policy, set forth in a sectionof its handbook titled “Information Security,” provides inrelevant part:
Use technology appropriately* * * * *If you enjoy blogging or using online social networkingsites such as Facebook and YouTube, (otherwise known asConsumer Generated Media, or CGM) please note thatthere are guidelines to follow if you plan to mention[Employer] or your employment with [Employer] in theseonline vehicles. . .

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