NLRB Social Media Push Looms Large for Hospitality Sector

December 5, 2013 – In The News

Carolyn D. Richmond was quoted in the Law360 article “NLRB Social Media Push Looms Large for Hospitality Sector.” While the full text can be found in the December 5, 2013, issue of Law360, a synopsis is noted below.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has become increasingly involved in non-union issues over the last few years. Industry experts have stated that hotels, restaurants and other labor-intensive hospitality companies should prepare for potential claims and tread carefully when creating social media policies for employees.

The NLRB has been extending its reach to include the actions and speech rights of groups of employees, even when those groups are not unions. The NLRB targets companies with broad social media policies, saying that they are limiting the rights of employees to band together over improper work conditions, wages or terms.

While the board is striking at a number of industries, the hospitality industry is especially vulnerable due to its large employee base – which leans toward a younger demographic with high levels of social media use – and the sector’s reliance on positive online reputations.

“We’ve been advising clients to be very careful about how they tailor their Internet policies,” Richmond said.

She suggests that when working with a hotel, restaurant or other company, outside counsel should take care to advise those clients to spend additional time and money training supervisors and managers, as well as their public relations department, to understand the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

“In hospitality, you usually have a lot of resources spent tracking social media and hits about a company, and you may need to educate [the marketing department] to understand what is allowed and not allowed as far as employee commentary,” Richmond said.

“We’re under a very liberal board now, and it’s probably the most employee-friendly board that I can recall seeing in the 25 years I’ve been studying it,” said Richmond.