The National Labor Relations Board has found that another employer (a non-union employer) violated its employees’ protected concerted activity rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) when it disciplined and fired them for certain social media activity. Our Labor Group provides an extensive analysis of this decision in Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille, 361 NLRB No. 31 (2014).

The analysis of the issues in Triple Play, you will see, is quite fact intensive and requires some thought in applying the applicable legal principles – and that is just addressing the NLRA issues. When companies are faced with adverse social media activity or campaigns, whether it be by employees, customers, bloggers, etc., they frequently are unprepared to take the appropriate steps to investigate, or to weigh the legal, business and other risks in deciding what actions, if any, to take. The situation in Triple Play, and other activity in social media, provide good reason for companies to be better prepared and to have a plan. Many companies may already have a crisis management plan or a communications policy, but those plans and policies need to reflect the nuances of social media and other factors, such as who is engaging in the activity and what information is being communicated.

Here are some basic questions/issues that should be considered in any plan, which are by no means exhaustive:

  • Should we have resources proactively monitoring social media activity and communications that potentially affect the company, and what limitations should there be on that monitoring?
  • Who in the company should receive initial reports of a potential problem?
  • Who should be involved in the investigation? Do we need third-party forensic expertise?
  • Do we have insurance coverage for the particular incident?
  • How will the persons involved in the activity – employees, customers, bloggers, etc. – affect the process from a legal, business or other perspective?
  • How did we learn about, get access to the activity – was it permissible under the Stored Communications Act (SCA), the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), state laws concerning social media passwords?
  • Is the information being communicated accurately?
  • Are we acting consistent with our own privacy and other policies in connection with the investigation?
  • Is the activity/communication protected – protections may exist under First Amendment, the NLRA, whistleblowing, or other sources?
  • Do we need to respond? How have we responded in the past to similar situations? Will a response only make things worse? If a response is warranted, what should it be?
  • What can we learn from this incident in order to avoid incidents like this in the future?

A little planning can go a long way toward minimizing mistakes and getting better results when companies face urgent situations that require immediate action.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Mr. Lazzarotti also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits Practice Group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Mr. Lazzarotti counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Mr. Lazzarotti’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Mr. Lazzarotti speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Mr. Lazzarotti served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.