On May 19, 2011, we predicted that we had not yet heard the last word from the National Labor Relations Board on the intersection of social media and employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act … and we were right. The very next day, the NLRB’s Chicago office issued a complaint against Karl Knauz Motors, a Chicago-area luxury car dealership, alleging that the company violated the NLRA when it fired one of its car salesmen over photos and comments he posted on his Facebook account that were critical of the dealership.
On June 14, 2010, Robert Becker posted on his personal Facebook page that he and his coworkers were unhappy with the rather pedestrian quality of the food and beverages (hot dogs and bottled water) served at a dealership event promoting a new BMW model. He also posted that he and his coworkers felt that their sales commissions could suffer as a result of the dealership’s poor event planning, and shared photographic evidence of the underwhelming vittles. Knauz’s management asked Becker to delete his Facebook posts, which he did. Becker was fired the next week. He claims he was fired for posting the comments and photos about the unremarkable snacks, but the dealership says that he was terminated for posting a picture of an accident involving another salesperson while on a test drive with a customer.
Becker filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, alleging that Knauz Motors discharged him for discussing the terms and conditions of his employment with his coworkers. After consulting with the agency’s Division of Advice in Washington, the NLRB filed a complaint against the dealership, alleging that the dealership’s decision to terminate Becker for voicing concerns on his Facebook page “discouraged employees from engaging in … concerted activities.” Knauz Motors has publicly stated that it will not settle and is preparing for a hearing before an administrative law judge on July 21, 2011, in Chicago.