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Administrative Law Judge rules Chicago car dealership had overly broad employee policy, but discharged employee’s activity not protected

A National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ruled on Wednesday that Knauz BMW, a Chicago area car dealership, did not wrongfully terminate an employee for his Facebook postings. However, Judge Joel P. Biblowitz also found that the dealership had an overly broad employee policy, and ordered posting of a notice informing employees of their right to engage in protected concerted activity.

The case involved the employee’s posting to Facebook of two incidents, one involving a sales event and another involving an accident at an adjoining dealership. In the first, the employee, a car salesman, and coworkers were unhappy with the quality of food and beverages at a dealership event promoting a new BMW model. Though the salespeople did not directly complain to their employer that the food offerings could affect their commissions, they discussed with each other that their sales could suffer as a result. Following the event, one salesman posted photos and commentary on his Facebook page critical that only hot dogs and bottled water were being offered to customers. Other employees had access to and commented on the Facebook page.

On the same day, the salesman posted photos of an accident that had occurred earlier involving a vehicle from an adjacent dealership that was accidently driven into a pond. Both dealerships are part of the same ownership group. Judge Biblowitz found that while the postings involving the sales event and the subsequent exchange of comments with other employees was protected activity, the postings involving the accident were not. Further, the judge found that the salesman was terminated for the accident postings, and therefore not protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

Regarding the employee policy, Judge Biblowitz found that certain paragraphs were overly broad and tended to chill employee rights by prohibiting employees from participating in interviews with or answering inquiries concerning employees. Though the employer had changed the policy prior to the hearing, the judge ordered that a notice be posted at the dealership informing employees of their right to engage in protected concerted activity.

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