More than 100 new Facebook cases under NLRB review

Can you be fired for complaining about your job on Facebook? Can you be forced to rehire an employee you fired for complaining about their job on Facebook? It all depends on the context.

Earlier this month, five employees who used Facebook to voice their displeasure about their job, and were fired for doing so, were told by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to go back to work. The news has further added to the confusion about what people can post about their jobs on Facebook and what measures employers can take to enforce social media policies without breaking the law. There has been a surge of more than 100 complaints filed with the NLRB – most within the past year.

Many businesses still lack social media policies, meaning workers don't know what they can and can't do. "Employers are struggling to figure out what the right policies are and what they should do when these cases arise," US Chamber of Commerce labor law policy director Michael Eastman told CBS News.

It's okay to express concerns about the terms and conditions of your job, but it's not okay to make comments about individual gripes that are not an effort to talk about conditions with coworkers. The law protects you when making collective discussions about work, online or in person, whether you are part of a union or not.

The use of social media has become much more accepted in the workplace – in some cases it is even encouraged. Still, given the broad reach of social networks, many businesses aren't comfortable with such public conversations.

"Most of the social media policies that we've been presented are very, very overboard," said NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon. "They say you can't disparage or criticize the company in any way on social media, and that is not true under the law. A lot of Facebook, by its very nature, starts out as mere griping. We need some evidence either before, during, or after that you are looking to your fellow employees to engage in some sort of group action."

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