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Federal ALJ Says NLRA Also Protects Employee Social Media Use from Union Interference

    Client Alerts
  • September 27, 2016

Employers are well aware of the National Labor Relations Board’s increasingly aggressive prosecution of employers accused of violating employee rights by attempting to restrict their social media interactions. Earlier this month, a federal Administrative Law Judge concluded that Section 7 of the NLRA similarly protects employees from union retaliation or interference based upon its members’ social medial use.

In Laborers Union Local 91, a union journeyman filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging that his union retaliated against him for Facebook postings claiming that the union was unfairly treating apprentices. The Facebook posts criticized the union’s granting of journeyman status to a local politician. He claimed that the union filed an internal complaint against him, and eventually removed him from its out-of-work list.

The ALJ agreed concluding that the union had violated the journeyman’s right to engage in protected concerted activity under Section 7. He rejected the union’s claims that the Facebook posting had “defamed” the union, therefore removing him from the statute’s protections. Section 7 also protects discussions of terms and conditions of membership applicable to union apprentices.

While this decision makes no substantive changes to the NLRB’s position with regard to social media use, employers may draw some small comfort in knowing that unions are also struggling with their ability to control negative social media use by their members.