Woman fired for bashing boss on Facebook settles suit

Connecticut ambulance company agrees to terms, amends Internet commenting policy


A former employee of a Connecticut ambulance company has settled a lawsuit filed after she was allegedly fired for trashing her work supervisor on Facebook.

Dawnmarie Souza accepted a financial settlement in the case brought last December against American Medical Response (AMR). Terms were not disclosed and Souza would not comment on the agreement.

(Also see: Careful what you say on Facebook -- the boss is watching)

But the union worker apparently had plenty to say (or write) in December 2009, PC Magazine reports, when she allegedly called "her boss a 'dick' and 'scumbag' on her Facebook wall after an argument at work."

It probably didn't help that the boss's wife "liked" the comments. I'm kidding.

Back to not kidding: Souza and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a wrongful termination suit a couple of months ago. Not sure why it took a year for the court action, but once it began, the settlement came pretty quickly.

In the lawsuit, the NLRB argued that Souza's assessment of her boss on Facebook was protected free speech under U.S. labor law. I'm guessing AMR's lawyers were inclined to agree, given the fast settlement, as well as the company's decision to revise its policies prohibiting employees from making disparaging comments about it or members of its management team on the Internet.

From the Associated Press:

"I think it certainly sends a message about what the NLRB views the law to be," said Jonathan Kreisberg, the NLRB regional director in Hartford who approved the settlement. "The fact that they agreed to revise their rules so that they're not so overly restrictive of the rights of employees to discuss their terms and conditions with others and with their fellow employees is the most significant thing that comes out of this."

Souza, who as part of the settlement will not be returning to AMR, posted the comments on her Facebook wall from a home computer in response to her boss saying he had received a complaint about her from a customer.

Bottom line: If you want to call your boss a "dick" or "scumbag" on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or anywhere else online, you probably are legally protected to do so. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Meanwhile, Souza's next job interview should be pretty interesting.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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