NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J., Feb. 12, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- When Amazon threatened to fire employees for speaking out about the company's need to do more on climate change, it created a public relations quagmire. A new XpertHR podcast examines Amazon's ill-fated crackdown and other topical employee free speech issues with Kate Bischoff, who runs the Minneapolis-based tHRive Law and Consulting, and Cleveland employment attorney Jonathan Hyman, of Meyers Roman.
Hyman noted that in some cases, PR issues can override legal ones. Threatening a couple of employees with termination led to more than 350 Amazon workers speaking out publicly in an online critique. Bischoff suggested the original criticism by two employees was the least of the online retail giant's concerns, and said the response runs the risk of hurting Amazon in recruiting and retention.
"There are many gray areas associated with employee free speech," explains David Weisenfeld, JD, XpertHR Legal Editor and host of the XpertHR podcast. Bischoff adds that for companies that want to appear as an employer of choice, cracking down on free speech can backfire, as it did in Amazon's case."
XpertHR's new podcast explores company communications policies when it comes to what employees can and cannot say outside of the office. With social media, Hyman asserted, "The genie is out of the bottle and it's not going back in," but he added that employers and employees need to reach a better understanding as to what is expected.
Whether or not free speech is considered illegal by the National Labor Relations Board depends on the topics of the employee's criticism.
"If an employee goes public about their work conditions, pay, management or benefits, they are protected," says Weisenfeld. "But if they speak about a non-work related issue, then the employee will have a much harder time justifying their conduct."
XpertHR's podcast covers Amazon's threatened action about employees protesting its stance on climate change, as well as what rises to the level of protected activity under labor law, off-duty conduct, employee speech on social media and much more.
To listen to the podcast, visit XpertHR.
The XpertHR podcast is an award-winning podcast series on trending workplace issues affecting employers and HR professionals featuring practical tips.
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Editor's Note: David Weisenfeld is available for interview. Please include a link to https://bit.ly/2UtLbtk