Employee can’t be fired for gossip about possible layoff

LaDonna George drove a route for a vending machine company. She requested several days off the week after her father’s funeral. When the company denied her request, she became emotional, scrawled a note to the employer and left.

When she returned the following week, she mentioned to a fellow driver, Steve Boros, that she had seen an online job posting for a route driver. She wondered aloud to Steve whether their employer had placed the ad because it was about to fire one of its drivers.

Steve, believing he was about to be fired, approached the employer about it. The employer responded by firing LaDonna, for (among other things) spreading gossip and suggesting to other workers they were about to be fired.

Was this okay?

No, according to the National Labor Relations Board, which said LaDonna’s firing violated federal law.

Federal labor law says that employees have a right to communicate with each other about working conditions, and for “mutual aid and protection.” This is true regardless of whether they belong to a union.

According to the Board, talking with a co-worker about job security (including worrying about being fired) comes under this law, just like talking about wages, safety issues, or other workplace conditions. Therefore, what LaDonna did was protected, and she couldn’t be fired for it.