In a first-of-its-kind case, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has informed an employer, Thomson Reuters, that it plans to file a civil complaint against that company for reprimanding an employer over a Twitter posting she had sent criticizing management of the company.  

            The NLRB asserts that the company violated the employee’s right to discuss working conditions when her supervisor reprimanded her for posting a message on the Twitter service that implied that management was not being honest with employees.  The employee, an environmental reporter for the company, was responding to a supervisor’s invitation to employees to send postings to a company Twitter address about how to make Reuters a better place to work.  

            After the employee sent the message, a member of management called her at home, and informed her that Thomson Reuters had a policy prohibiting employees from saying anything that would damage the reputation of the company.  

            The essence of the proposed NLRB complaint is that the telephone call to the employee, which she felt was intimidating and threatening, had violated the employee’s federally protected right to engage in concerted, protected activity with co-workers to improve working conditions.  Typically, the NLRB warns an employer about its intention to file a complaint, to encourage the parties to resolve the matter.  If no resolution occurs, the complaint is filed, and the case is heard by an administrative law judge. 

            This matter follows one in November, 2010, in which the NLRB accused an ambulance service of unlawfully terminating an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page.  That matter was resolved in February, 2011, in part by the company agreeing to change its blogging and Internet policy(ies), which had prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks against the company or its supervisors.