Small businesses may be more prone to hair-trigger responses than giant global corporations because those big companies have layers of rules and bureaucracy. I’m not a fan of those layers, which is why Silver Beacon works exclusively with small businesses and non-profits, but there’s something to be said for an army of attorneys on the ninth floor. Or even a small business attorney in your contact list.
The Legal Times blog is reporting that an ambulance company in Connecticut terminated an employee who made negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook. Other employees reportedly participated in the Facebook discussion.
Here is the worst part. Just four months ago, the local newspaper ran an article about the company sponsoring the employee’s 60 mile fund-raising walk for breast cancer. Yet if the Legal Times article has its data right, the employee didn’t quit for health reasons. She was terminated a year ago. And if that’s the case, why did the company have anything more to do with her?
Now the National Labor Relations Board is involved and has issued its own press release, announcing that it has investigated the original incident and will conduct a hearing January. This isn’t the forum to debate or discuss the case. Your takeaway as a small business leader is to recognize that the passion you feel for your business is your greatest asset and a potential liability. Mistakes are made by organizations of all sizes, but a small business that may not want to spend on attorney fees is especially susceptible. Critical in this case is the government agency’s finding that the company’s “
blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited 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“
If you’re nodding your head right now that the company should be able to tell paid employees that they are not allowed to disparage the company on the Internet, then you are underscoring the point about seeking counsel before writing policy.
The law isn’t about what’s right or wrong and while any business owner can empathize with a business that terminates someone that it may believe is a bad employee, writing policy without assistance can lead to a federal agency publicly finding fault with your company and opening up the gates for potential fiscal liability. Call your attorney. If you don’t have one, call your accountant and ask for a recommendation. If you don’t have an accountant or attorney, seek out a local Small Business Attorney, call your Small Business Administration, and ask for help in protecting yourself, your employees, and your business.
Source: “NLRB Sues Company for Firing Worker Over Facebook Post” – Legal Times
Source: “Person of the Week” – The Day
Source: “Complaint alleges Connecticut company illegally fired employee… – NLRB
Image: Public domain