monitoring employee conversations?

I work for a very small company (we are a tight knit group) a few of the staff members along with myself and another manager all had a “group chat” on Snapchat. Mostly just BS conversations casually among all of us. We got a new manager about three months ago and some of the staff were venting about their frustrations with him. (Ex: he is such a jerk, he threatened to write me up today, things of that nature). This was all months ago and said manager never knew anything about it. Recently, a staff member showed him their phone, and he saw past conversations and got upset. Question 1: he is now claiming this is “workplace harassment” and a “hostile environment” although no one had ever treated him poorly while working and now everyone likes him, is this a valid concern he has? Question 2: he brought all of this up to the owner of our company (again, very small business) and my boss infiltrated the group chat, “dismantled it” and then made a new policy that staff cannot have private out of work conversations anymore about anything work related or in general. Can he do that? People only use the chat when they’re OFF work, or when they need something work related. I just feel like my staff should have some expectation of privacy when they’re not working. Thoughts? Even if not illegal, what is generally the rule of thumb with employers trying to monitor their employees conversations?

1 answer  |  asked Mar 4, 2020 12:40 PM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (1)

Harold Goldner
This is one of the rare instances in which the National Labor Relations Act applies regardless of whether you are a union shop or not.

You have the right to act with coworkers to address work-related issues in many ways. Examples include: talking with one or more co-workers about your wages and benefits or other working conditions, circulating a petition asking for better hours, participating in a concerted refusal to work in unsafe conditions, and joining with coworkers to talk directly to your employer, to a government agency, or to the media about problems in your workplace.

Your employer may not discharge, discipline, or threaten you for, or coercively question you about, this "protected concerted" activity.

You can lose such protection if you discuss things about your employer that are egregiously offensive or knowingly and maliciously false, or by publicly disparaging your employer's products or services without relating your complaints to any labor controversy.

This is under Section 7 of the NLRA. In addition, the "infiltration" of the group may violate user terms and conditions of the hosting site, and may subject the infiltrator to liability.

You boss *may not* categorically ban such discussions. That's a plain meaning violation of Section 7 of the NLRA.

posted by Harold Goldner  |  Mar 4, 2020 1:11 PM [EST]

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