Two employees of a Chicago community youth center engaged in an expletive-laden Facebook conversation that included complaints about how they were treated by their employer. The posts were not visible to the public; only the workers’ Facebook “friends” could see them. But someone took a screenshot and passed the conversation along to a supervisor, who fired them.
One of the workers challenged the firing, arguing that the pair were actually engaged in “concerted activity” related to improving the workplace, and therefore their actions were protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
A federal administrative judge decided that their conduct might technically qualify as concerted activity. However, in this case, the content of the conversation was so out-of-bounds that the law didn’t protect it.
Specifically, the judge found that the conversation could have a negative effect on the employer’s business (by compromising funding from the government and from donors), and that it rendered the employee unfit for further service.