Regulators and courts in the EU are increasingly vigilant in relation to privacy practices and policies of large online companies.  In recent years and months, the pressure increases not only through privacy-specific regulations and enforcement, but also through the application of consumer legislation.  As the below examples from France and Germany show, some courts or regulators assess privacy practices and policies against the rules on unfair or abusive trade practices — in some countries, the legislator is even proposing new laws to that end.  This is a worrying trend, as it could trigger the application of an additional set of rules to privacy policies, and implies that EU consumer protection authorities may acquire competence in relation to online privacy policies, in addition to the EU data protection regulators.


Continue Reading European Consumer Legislation and Online Privacy Policies: Opening Pandora’s Box?

Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) ruled that two employees of a sports bar and restaurant were unlawfully discharged for their participation in a Facebook discussion criticizing their employer.  In the Facebook discussion that prompted the firings, a former employee complained in a status update that she owed more taxes than expected because of withholding mistakes by the employer.  The employee commented on the status, “I owe too.  Such an asshole,” and was discharged.  A second employee, who “liked” the former employee’s status, was discharged as well.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act provides, in relevant part, “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection . . . .”  At issue in this case was not whether the employees’ Facebook activity was “concerted” or whether the employees had a statutorily protected right to engage in a Facebook discussion about the employer’s tax-withholding practices.  Rather, the case centered on whether, as a result of their actions on Facebook, the two employees adopted the allegedly defamatory and disparaging statements contained in the former employee’s Facebook status and therefore lost the protection of the Act.
Continue Reading NLRB Finds Employee’s Facebook “Like” and Comment Protected By Labor Law

By Brian Ryoo

On May 30, National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) Acting General Counsel Lafe E. Solomon issued his third report on employer social media issues, focusing on “overbroad” employer social media policies.  The report expresses concern about “ambiguous [policies] that contain no limiting language or context” and give employees insufficient notice of their protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  The report describes several recent cases in which the agency found employer social media policies to be unlawful, and it appends an example of a social media policy that is lawful from the NLRB perspective. 

Section 7 of the NLRA protects certain employee rights, such as the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.  This protection applies to employees at almost all private employers, whether they have wage or non-supervisory, salaried employees.  NLRB case law interprets the Act to prohibit any work rule that “would reasonably tend to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights”― a prohibition that it has found implicated by overbroad employer social media policies.

Solomon’s report indicates that NLRB enforcement activity has focused on circumstances in which employers had issued a blanket ban on a broad spectrum of social media activities without including limiting language or clarifying that the rules do not restrict rights protected under Section 7.  Rules that the NLRB will consider lawful “clarify and restrict their scope by including examples of clearly illegal or unprotected conduct, such that they would not reasonably be construed to cover protected activity.”

Continue Reading NLRB Issues Updated Report on “Overbroad” Social Media Policies