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New NLRB rulings back bus driver fired over Web comments, limit hospital’s social media policy

Posted May 8, 2013 12:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a new ruling in a hot area of employment law, the National Labor Relations Board has backed a tour bus driver fired for making comments critical of his employer in Facebook and email comments that also suggested fellow workers should unionize.

The NLRB agreed with an administrative judge that Fred Pflantzer should not have been fired by New York Party Shuttle for complaining about a lack of health insurance and vacation benefits, as well as paychecks that allegedly bounced, Reuters reports.

His comments were protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB found in the May 2 decision. Among them was a Facebook post to fellow tour guides saying, "As you all well know, we have a right to organize in this country, a right protected by the U.S. Government. Needless to say, I started to agitate for a union. Guess what happened, I stopped being called for work."

Although the NLRB ordered that Pflantzer be reinstated, with back pay, he was not thrilled about the decision.

"It's great I won, but did I really win? I don't know," he told Reuters. "They are still continuing with their miserable labor practices."

He anticipates an appeal by the company, which would mean he won't be getting his back pay anytime soon. Since being fired, he said, he has established his own tour bus company and does not plan to return to work at New York Party Shuttle.

An official representing the company did not respond to a request for comment from the news agency.

Meanwhile, in another recent NLRB case, an administrative judge held last month that a social media policy of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was overly broad, according to the California Workplace Advisor, a management-side law blog that provides a link to the opinion.

Among the material that he ordered the hospital to revise or eliminate were provisions against using e-mail “in a way that may be disruptive, offensive to others, or harmful to morale” and limiting e-mail and social media use to “authorized activities.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "When can workers be fired for Facebook posts and tweets?"

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