Employer agrees to rescind social media policy

On April 7, 2014, Valero Services, Inc. agreed to rescind its nationwide social media policy and to post and mail a NLRB remedial notice to its employees throughout the country in response to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Valero Services provides employee leasing services to refineries and plants located throughout the United States, including a refinery located in Port Arthur, Texas.

The United Steelworkers of America filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB Region 16, alleging that Valero Services social media policy interfered with employees’ rights to discuss their terms and conditions of employment on social media. Region 16 found merit to the allegations and issued complaint. During the hearing, Associate Chief Administrative Law Judge William N. Cates approved a settlement agreement resolving the dispute. Under the terms of the settlement, Valero Services agreed to notify employees that it will rescind its unlawful social media policy and to post NLRB notices at its 52 facilities nationwide, as well as to mail notices to employees, advising them that they will not be prohibited from using social media to discuss their terms and conditions of employment.

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2 thoughts on “Employer agrees to rescind social media policy

  1. US employees have some legal rights to discuss certain things without fear of retaliation or being disciplined or fired at work.

    The National Labor Relations Act, which some people think only applies to unions, actually applies to all US employees, whether they’re unionized or not. That’s because it’s what protects workers if they decide to organize, form unions or negotiate, as a group, with management to improve their working conditions.

    Sections 7 and 8 of the NLRA grant employees the right to “concerted activity” toward improving working conditions. So all employees have a legal right to discuss wages, hours and working conditions on social media in an effort to change things. And this includes being critical of the boss.

    But if you do decide to use social media for this purpose, your public posts would have to be “concerted,” which usually means they would have to be directed towards other employees, and not just personal gripes.

    In September 2012, the Board which oversees the National Labor Relations Act or NLRB issued their first decision on social media policies, striking down Costco’s rules and regulations as unlawful.

    Here are the specific excerpts from Costco’s social media policy that the NLRB took issue with (show text):

    (1) “[s]ensitive information such as membership, payroll, confidential financials, credit card numbers, social security number or employee personal health information may not be shared, transmitted, or stored for personal or public use without prior management approval”; and

    (2) employees are prohibited from sharing “confidential” information such as employees’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses.

    These particular clauses were seen as infringing on employee rights. As far as the NLRB is concerned, if a work rule has the potential to reasonably chill an employee’s right to organize or bargain collectively, it’s unlawful. Employees have the right to complain if they think their employers’ labor practices are unfair.

    If an employee complains on an employer’s Linkedin Company Page that a worker with less seniority is earning more for equal work and reveals their salary in an effort to spur discussion among the page’s followers, that’s their legal right. It’s as simple as that.

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