Terminate an Employee for Coarse Language? Not If You Tolerate it in the Workplace!

The federal National Labor Relations Board has recently shown that it will go to great lengths to protect communications of workers concerning employment conditions. The Board has repeatedly emphasized that workers must be free to communicate to protect their rights to collective action, including seeking to form a union. The latest decision by the NLRB orders the reinstatement of a catering company employee who had posted on Facebook an obscenity laced rant about a supervisor. The employee was apparently upset about the supervisor’s treatment of the employee during a union election campaign. Many would find it hard to continue to employ a worker who posted:19156606.thb

“Bob is such a NASTY MF-er don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! F*** his mother and his entire f***ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!”

Apparently, the reference to unionization in the posting made a difference since it provided a valid purpose in the eyes of the NLRB amidst the offensive content. However, that is not the important lesson of this decision.

In response to the employer’s explanation it may terminate an employee for the use of obscenity in a work-related post on Facebook, the NLRB stated that similar language was commonly used at the New York based catering company. It would not deem the Facebook rant offensive.

What language is permitted in your dealership? Surely this language should not be allowed around customers. However, do supervisors permit coarse language when customers are not present? If so, selective enforcement later can be difficult.