NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - A union representing
employees at a New York grocery chain has asked federal labor
regulators to investigate whether the store's new social media
policy is overbroad and violates workers' rights under the
National Labor Relations Act.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 filed a
petition this week with the National Labor Relations Board
office in Brooklyn, alleging that Stop & Shop's policy was
"impermissibly vague, overbroad and violated Section 7 rights of
employees" under the act, which protects the right to organize
The policy, rolled out in July, forbids employees from
disclosing confidential information -- including salaries -- on
social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, and from
discrediting the store's practices or products, according to a
lawyer for the union, Patricia McConnell of Meyer Suozzi English
It also requires employees to inform managers if their
colleagues violate the policy, and workers face disciplinary
action -- up to and including termination -- if they break the
rules, McConnell said.
The union also alleges that Stop & Shop put the policy into
effect without consulting it, in violation of its collective
The union, which represents approximately 5,500 Stop & Shop
employees at 45 stores in and around New York City, is unaware
of any employees who have been disciplined under the new policy,
McConnell said. But the "overbroad" nature of the policy could
chill workers' right to discuss pay or simply to gripe about
their employer, she said.
"The mere maintenance of the policy violates the law,
whether it's enforced in discipline," McConnell said.
Stop & Shop spokeswoman Amy Murphy-St. Laurent said that the
store's policy is meant simply to remind employees to use
"reasonable guidelines" when posting to social media sites. The
policy also states that the guidelines are not to be used in
violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), she said.
"Stop & Shop does not wish to interfere with the private
lives of its associates, even when they are on-line," Murphy-St.
Laurent said in an email.
The NLRB will investigate the petition and decide whether to
bring formal charges before an administrative law judge. The
union said it is considering meeting with New York lawmakers to
seek legislative changes to address its concerns.
The NLRB has moved quickly in recent months to help
interpret employers' obligations under the NLRA when it comes to
social-media policies, said Michael Schmidt, a member of the
labor and employment practice at Cozen O'Connor.
A handful of cases have already worked their way through the
system, but many employers nonetheless are waiting to see how
the NLRB's ban on "overbroad" social media policies is
interpreted by appellate courts, Schmidt said.
In January, the NLRB issued a report detailing some recent
enforcement actions that dealt with emerging social media issues
in the workplace. In at least six cases, the NLRB found that
social media policies contained "overbroad" or unlawful language
that illegally limited employees' comments about co-workers or
"Most of the cases where charges have been filed get settled
pretty quickly," Schmidt said. "This is a hot issue right now,
and many companies don't want to have their names attached to
one of these guinea-pig rulings."
(The headline on a prior version of this story read, "Union
sues Stop & Shop over social media policy." The union filed a
petition with the NLRB).
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)
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