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Employee protections under the NLRB

Pennsylvania residents may have seen the open letter from a Yelp employee posted online regarding the company's pay, training and other practices that was followed by the employee's termination. It is not entirely clear whether the employee's actions are protected or if she might be able to mount a valid suit against Yelp for firing her.

One of the first things the National Labor Relations Board considers is whether the activity is concerted. This means that two or more employees are working together to improve conditions, but sometimes, it can mean only one employee if that employee is acting on behalf of others. The NLRB has increasingly dealt with cases involving social media and has ruled in favor of considering online concerted activity as protected. It also must consider whether the action seeks to improve things for other employees and whether the way it is carried out causes it to lose protection. For example, if a person sabotaged equipment, that might result in losing protection.

While this employee acted alone, she was ostensibly doing so for her fellow employees, so this might be considered concerted action. She is advocating for higher pay for everyone and is thus seeking improvement for others.

People who are considering being a whistleblower or protesting against working conditions, either on their own or with others, may want to consult an attorney to discuss their rights. For example, if a person attempts to form a union and is fired for that, then it might be possible to sue the employer. Legally, a person should not face retaliation for such an action. However, employees must be careful not to step across lines that would make them vulnerable to losing protection.

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