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Settlement reached in Facebook-related firing of medical technician

February 7, 2011 |  8:00 pm

The National Labor Relations Board and an ambulance services company have settled a complaint about the firing of a woman who had criticized her supervisor on Facebook.

The board's Hartford, Conn., regional office filed a complaint against American Medical Response last October, arguing that negative comments posted on Facebook by an emergency medical technician, Dawnmarie Souza, were protected speech under federal labor laws. American Medical Response, based in Connecticut, said it fired the woman because of complaints about her work, according to the Associated Press.

The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but workplace reforms were detailed.

The Associated Press reported that Souza would not be returning to work at the company.

Souza and officials at American Medical Response were unavailable for comment Monday.

Under the settlement with the federal board, American Medical Response has agreed to change its policy that barred workers from criticizing the company or its supervisors on websites, on blogs and in online communication with one another, the board said in a statement.

American Medical Response will also revise a policy that stated employees could not talk about the company in any way on the Internet without permission, the board said.

In 2009, using her home computer, Souza wrote a profanity-laden message on Facebook about a supervisor who had told her a customer complained about her work, the Associated Press reported.

Souza's comments also referred to her boss using the company's code for a psychiatric patient, and some of her co-workers posted responses on Facebook expressing approval and support of her comment, the Associated Press said.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are legally allowed to discuss the "terms and conditions of their employment" with their colleagues and others online and elsewhere, the board said.

The federal agency also said American Medical Response failed to provide Souza with union representation during interviews with her about the Facebook comments. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to no longer deny its employees union representation in such meetings, the agency said.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

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