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Woman Illegally Fired Over Facebook Remarks

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint on October 27 alleging that American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. illegally fired a woman for posting remarks about her boss on Facebook. The board says that her comments are protected speech under labor laws, and is virtually no different that talking at the water cooler.

While employed as an emergency medical technician with American Medical Response, Dawnmarie Souza was asked to prepare an investigative report for her supervisor after a customer complained about her work. She was reportedly denied representation by her union (the Teamsters Local 443) and thus went home to blow off some steam on Facebook.

"Looks like I'm getting some time off. Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor," she said on the social website. Although "17" is the code American Medical Response uses for a psychiatric patient, Souza supposedly added a few other choice words that quickly drew supportive Facebook postings from other American Medical Response employees.

John Barr, an attorney representing the company, said that it's against company policy for employees to discuss topics concerning the company on the Internet. "If you're going to make disgusting, slanderous statements about co-workers, that is something that our policy does not allow," Barr said.

Barr also added that Souza was on the way out despite her Facebook remarks, indicating that the ex-employee received two separate complaints about her "rude and discourteous service" within a 10-day period.

Jonathan Kreisberg, director of the board's regional office in Hartford argues that the company's policy is too broad and that Souza's Facebook comment didn't cross the legal line. "Here she was on her own time, on her own computer and on her own Facebook page making these comments," Kreisberg said. "If employees are upset about their supervisor and get together on their own time talk about him, criticize and call him names, they can do that."

This will be the first complaint issued by the NLRB based on comments made via Facebook. "I have no doubt that we'll be seeing more," said Lafe Solomon, the board's acting general counsel. "We have to develop policies as we go in this fast-changing environment."