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Metalcasting’s Legal Climate


Attorneys representing the industry discuss three legal areas affecting metalcasters’ HR departments today. SHANNON WETZEL, SENIOR EDITOR


O


perating your metalcasting busi- ness within the letter of the law is good business


practice. Beyond the moral reasons, it saves you time and money to avoid lengthy legal battles. But keeping your business under the protective umbrella of the law can be difficult when estab- lished laws change or new business issues crop up that require new legal definitions. Businesses must be sure they are complying with EPA and OSHA regulations, practicing lawful hiring and HR policies, and acting within the guidelines set out in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), among a myriad of other rules. In today’s climate, businesses must also apply the law to new areas, such as social media and online information, while established areas, such as equal employment, are given new emphasis.


Social Media Legal Policies


Facebook hit 1 billion users in Sep- tember 2012, 167 million of which are in the U.S. Social media has become prevalent in society, and a growing number of cases involving social media and business have provided some legal background on a variety of issues. According to Mitchell Quick, an employment law attorney for Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee, employers have the ability to access and potentially use an applicant’s or


30 | MODERN CASTING April 2013


employee’s social media postings in the pre-offer stage, post-conditional offer stage, during an individual’s employ- ment and post-termination. What may be most interesting to


metalcasters is the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) focus on social media policies in the last two years. Te NLRB has aggressively built cases against employers for unlawful, overbroad social media policies and conduct policies, as well as termina- tions that violate employees’ rights as protected under the NLRA. Section 7 of the NLRA gives


employees “the right to self-organiza- tion, to form, join or assist labor orga- nization, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choos- ing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining and other mutual aid and protection, and shall have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.” Te rights of Section 7 apply to


unionized and non-unionized work- forces. According to Quick, employees who are complaining about a supervi- sor, their company’s wages or benefits, or criticizing their employers could be protected under Section 7. For instance, if your company’s core department associates are unhappy with the shift schedule posted by the core room supervisor and post disparaging com- ments about his scheduling decision in a public Facebook discussion, they likely would be protected from termi-


nation or other disciplinary action. In a September 2011 case involv- ing the Hispanics United of Buffalo, an administrative law judge reinstated five employees who were fired for complain- ing about a coworker (and making pro- fane comments) on Facebook. According to Quick, some comments may be so offensive as to make otherwise protected activity unprotected, but in this case, the hearing officer concluded the comments did not cross the line. However, in another case that


same month, an administrative law judge upheld the termination of a car salesman who posted a picture of a Land Rover that had been driven into a nearby pond, along with disparaging comments about his employer. Te pic- ture was posted without any discussion of terms and conditions of employment with coworkers, and the hearing officer found the Land Rover picture was the reason for the termination. Quick said metalcasting manag- ers should remember three questions to ask before taking disciplinary action regarding violation of employer conduct policies or employees’ social media postings, as Section 7 rights may be involved: • Was the activity concerted (i.e. were two or more employees involved or was one speaking on behalf of a group)?


• Did the activity or communi- cation relate to (and seek to benefit) employees’ terms and


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