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Online Social Media and the End of the Employment-at-Will Doctrine

23 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2013 Last revised: 12 Aug 2013

Robert Sprague

University of Wyoming - College of Business

Abigail E. Fournier

University of Wyoming - College of Law

Date Written: February 25, 2013

Abstract

This article addresses the intersection of Section 7 protected concerted activities under the National Labor Relations Act and the common law employment-at-will doctrine. Employers are under pressure to ensure their online social media policies do not unlawfully chill protected Section 7 activities, freeing employees to discuss working conditions with coworkers through online social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This article argues that once coworkers engage online in work-related conversations, for all practical purposes they cease to be at-will employees. Under the Wright Line standard, if an employee is fired or disciplined shortly after engaging in protected concerted activities, the employer has the burden of showing the employee was actually fired or disciplined for a different legitimate cause. The result is that online social media communications among employees may effectively put an end to the employment-at-will doctrine.

Keywords: employment law, online social media, protected concerted activities, employment-at-will doctrine

Suggested Citation

Sprague, Robert and Fournier, Abigail E., Online Social Media and the End of the Employment-at-Will Doctrine (February 25, 2013). 52 Washburn Law Journal 557 (2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2224093

Robert Sprague (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming - College of Business ( email )

1000 E. University Avenue
Dept. 3275
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.uwyo.edu/mgtmkt/faculty-staff/faculty-pages/sprague.html

Abigail E. Fournier

University of Wyoming - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 3035
Laramie, WY 82071
United States

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