A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ruled last week that Knauz BMW, a Chicago area car dealership, did not run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act by terminating an employee for his Facebook postings.
The case involved two incidents that the employee discussed on Facebook. In the first incident, the employee and coworkers were unhappy that the dealership had decided to serve hot dogs and chips at what was supposed to be a high-end luxury car event. After the event, the employee posted pictures of employees holding hot dogs and wrote:
“I was happy to see that Knauz went “All Out” for the most important launch of a new BMW in years … the new 5 series. A car that will generate tens in millions of dollars in revenues for Knauz over the next few years. The small 8 oz bags of chips, and that $2.00 cookie plate from Sam’s Club, and the semi fresh apples and oranges were such a nice touch … but to top it all off … the Hot Dog Cart. Where our clients could attain a over cooked wiener and a stale bunn…”
The employee was Facebook friends with several co-workers, and some of these co-workers posted comments about the event.
The second incident involved an accident at an adjacent Land Rover dealership, which was under the same management as the BMW dealership. The employee posted pictures of the accident on his Facebook page and wrote:
“This is what happens when a sales Person sitting in the front passenger seat (Former Sales Person, actually) allows a 13 year old boy to get behind the wheel of a 6000 lb. truck built and designed to pretty much drive over anything. The kids drives over his father’s foot and into the pond in all about 4 seconds and destroys a $50,000 truck. OOOPS!”
There were several comments on these photos, including comments by coworkers like, “How did I miss all the fun stuff?” and “Finally, some action at our Land Rover store.”
After management discovered the Facebook pages, they called in the employee and asked “what were you thinking?” The employee responded that “he wasn’t thinking anything.” Exactly. The employee was terminated. The ALJ in the case ruled that the postings involving the sales event were protected activity, but the postings about the accident were not. Because the evidence indicated that the employee was terminated because of the accident postings, not the hot dog postings, the judge ultimately found that the employee’s termination did not violate the National Labor Relations Act. However, the ALJ did determine that several of the employer’s handbook policies violated the National Labor Relations Act – more on that issue in a post later this week…
For now, the number of NLRB cases involving questionable Facebook posts increases every week. We will keep you posted on the trends we see arise from these decisions.