After watching the firing of the digital communications manager for the Houston Rockets during their run through the playoffs (read the story here in the Houston Chronicle). I figured it would be a good time to revisit the issue of firing people for their conduct on social media as previously discussed here in 2012.
Firing the Person In Charge of Social Media
As the Rockets were wrapping their series-clinching game five victory over the rival Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets Twitter handle tweeted this:
Many thought it was in bad taste and the Rockets removed it and apologized. The Rockets have been known to push the limits a little on social media including personal tweets from the Rockets General Manager. Soon thereafter, the digital communications manager responsible for the tweet was fired.
I am assuming the digital communications manager is an at will employee, so there is not much of a legal debate about firing him for allegedly bringing ill will to the Rockets brand. Houston social media thought leader Brian Block suggests there may have been better ways to deal with the person running your official Twitter handle.
The harder issue is when the social media post is purely personal.
The NLRB Suggests You Think Twice
If someone said the boss was a “NASTY M***ER F***ER don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!!” Followed by “F*** his mother and his entire f***ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!!” (No asterisks were used in the actual post, but this is a family blog), firing the employee seems like a no-brainer.
But, wait for it, . . . the post also said “Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!” Now, we have protected concerted activity. The NLRB upheld the administrative law judge’s decision that firing the employee for the profanity-laced rant violated the NLRA. Essentially, if the rant is about working conditions, terms of employment or discussing even the possibility of unionizing, then it can be protected speech. The NLRB says this is no different than two employees getting together in the lunch room to discuss the terms of employment and possibly unionizing.
I guess we should advise anyone that wants to talk trash about their employer to follow whatever crazy thing they want to say with “Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!” It may prevent you from getting fired — unless you are the official voice of the organization and you use a gun emoji.
In Related Local Houston News: There is another interesting local story dealing with whether the individual or the company owns the Facebook account happening in a local bankruptcy court. I provided some thoughts on how to protect the company account in the past.