Editor’s Note: NLRB seeks right to trash employers

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

When my son was a teenager, he got in a bit of trouble for starting a website with a friend that caused a racket at his high school.

The assistant principal called to discuss the need to punish my son, and also his fear of trampling on his First Amendment rights. As a civil libertarian who was also a father with the mission to raise honorable children, my answer was quick and clear: As long he is in school, the only right he has is to behave himself and follow the rules.

I know the same edict doesn’t apply exactly in the workplace, but I do think employers should have the expectation that their workers will not embarrass the company publicly with their speech and action, and won’t disrupt the organization with subversive talk. As an employee, you can leave a company you feel is treating you unfairly. But if you stay, you should not bite the hand that feeds you.

The National Labor Relations Board thinks otherwise. It is suing Detroit’s Quicken Loans, charging it overly restricts the speech of its employees, particularly on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

If the NLRB prevails, companies will have little recourse against disgruntled employees who destroy their reputation and damage their business with online venting.

The labor board fears restrictions will prevent employees from organizing unions. But there’s a clearly defined legal process for organizing drives. It shouldn’t include trashing a company on the Internet.

Taking a paycheck does not mean you should also have to take abuse. But it should carry an obligation not to willfully harm the provider of that paycheck. You want to rant on Twitter, stop taking the paycheck first.