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Freedom Communications’ Absurd Social Media Policy Might Just Be Illegal

Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Barrett Tryon has been receiving grief from his employers for posting an LA Times story on his personal Facebook page. According to Carmen Boles, content director of the Gazette, the Facebook post violated the social media policy of Freedom Co. Tryon refused to remove the post. He tells Jim Romenesko he’s meeting with his employers  at 11:30 this morning to discuss the issue, and that he expects to be fired.

Beyond the absurdity of attempted censorship by a newspaper, traditionally an institution that promotes free speech, is the issue of employee rights. A story on Poynter notes that these kinds of overreaching attempts by employers to place restrictions on worker’s social media have drawn the ire of the National Labor Relations Board:

In at least six recent cases, according to a memo from the general counsel, the independent federal agency that investigates unfair labor practices has found provisions of employer social media policies to be unlawful.

The NLRB seems particularly concerned with any restriction that might impair employees’ rights to discuss employment terms and conditions publicly or with each other. The guiding law here is Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which gives workers the rights to organize, unionize and bargain collectively.

Poynter included a roundup of several social media policy provisions the NLRB ruled unlawful. Turns out you have the legally protected right to bitch about your low wages online. We plan to take full advantage.

For his part, Tryon is looking for the silver lining. He tweeted, “If anything, I hope this begins a conversation in your company about social media policy. Or lack of. And how legit it is.”

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