Dish Network employees will soon be able to go on Twitter and, in their free time, say things like, "I wish I was working for DirecTV. Much safer working conditions there."
The National Labor Relations Board has ordered Dish to change a "Social Media" policy in the employee handbook that prevented workers from making disparaging or defamatory comments about the company. Additionally, the NLRB has slapped Dish for exercising too much control over the way its employees interact with media and government agencies.
The NLRB has signaled in the past that it would become more active in monitoring corporate social media policies.
The rise of Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other online forums have led many companies to enact guidelines for how employees must behave there.
But in May, the general counsel of the NLRB put out a memo warning that federal law protects the rights of employees to self-organize, join and assist in labor organizations to bargain collectively for wages and working conditions ("Section 7 rights") and that certain social media policies were "overbroad" and could "reasonably be construed to chill" these rights.
Dish was one of the companies singled out (along with GM and Target), though at the time, the warnings were merely suggestions.
Then Dish got involved in a dispute with a technician who was fired for purportedly violating safety protocol in the installation of a satellite dish on a roof without wearing a safety harness or protective eyewear. The fired employee, who was active in his union, defended himself by pointing to coworkers who he said routinely failed protection procedures. A grievance was filed and the NLRB turned its attention to the company's employee handbook.
Dish told the NLRB that it would have warned and fired the employee regardless of protected activity.
But in a decision last Wednesday, the NLRB has nevertheless taken the opportunity to find that certain employee policies violated rules meant to stop companies from restraining union or collective activity. Among the policies deemed to be out of bounds: the "Social Media policy," which barred employees from electronically posting commentary about Dish on or outside of company time; the "Contact with Media policy," which required employees to obtain prior management authorization before speaking with the press; and the "Contact with Government Agencies policy," which also required employees get management authorization.
Administrative Law Judge Robert Ringler has ordered in his ruling that Dish cease and desist from these practices, furnish employees with new inserts to their employee handbooks and provide notice about policy changes.
Dish hasn't responded to a request for comment.
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