Karl Knauz Motors, 358 NLRB No. 164 (Sept. 28, 2012), is going to be a lead case in the area of social media simply because it is the first actual decision from the Board. Click here to download Knauz BMW The Board issued a press release describing the decision. The decision was divided along party lines.
Basically, the Board held that a Facebook posting that caused an employee’s discharge was not unlawful under the NLRA. Another interesting aspect of the case is that it found that a courtsey rule was unlawful as overbroad because it might chill Section 7 activity. With respect to that issue the Board stated:
We find the “Courtesy” rule unlawful because employees would reasonably construe its broad prohibition against “disrespectful” conduct and “language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership” as encompassing Section 7 activity, such as employees’ protected statements—whether to coworkers, supervisors, managers, or third parties who deal with the Respondent— that object to their working conditions and seek the support of others in improving them. First, there is nothing in the rule, or anywhere else in the employee handbook, that would reasonably suggest to employees that employee communications protected by Section 7 of the Act are excluded from the rule’s broad reach. See generally Costco Wholesale Corp., 358 NLRB No. 106 (2012) (finding unlawful the maintenance of a rule prohibiting statements posted electronically that “damage the Company . . . or damage any person’s reputation”).
Second, an employee reading this rule would reasonably assume that the Respondent would regard statements of protest or criticism as “disrespectful” or “injur[ious] [to] the image or reputation of the Dealership.”
With respect to the discharge, the Board found that the employee was not engaged in protected activity, the Board summarily affirmed
the ALJ who found that the employee was not discharged for protected activity. As the ALJ explained:
Rover accident on his Facebook account was neither protected nor concerted activities, and Counsel for the General Counsel does not appear to argue otherwise. It was posted solely by Becker, apparently as a lark, without any discussion with any other employee of the Respondent, and had no connection to any of the employees’ terms and conditions of employment. It is so obviously unprotected that it is unnecessary to discuss whether the mocking tone of the posting further affects the nature of the posting. It is therefore necessary to determine whether Becker was terminated because of the Event posting, the Land Rover posting, or for both.