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Some Interesting Thursday News Items

With no big news items recently, I wanted to post a roundup of a
couple of interesting developments that have come out this week. One recap looks
at changes on the horizon in Mexican labor law that may help to mobilize the
country’s workforce, and the other discussion builds on our recent Facebook-firing
post
by looking at how the NLRB has dealt with one company’s social media
policy.

This week the Mexican Congress approved new legislation that
will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, a step that experts
hope will modernize the country’s economy
. It is the first major change to the
country’s labor laws in over a decade. Analysts hope the bill will encourage
small businesses to hire workers rather than having to have laborers look to
employment in the underground economy. Mexico’s large public-sector unions are
a fixture in the country’s political infrastructure, and most unions opposed
provisions in the bill aimed at improving union transparency. In the end, the
bill manages to include union voting by secret ballot and an annual union audit
requirement. In a country where almost 30% of workers are employed by the informal
sector, experts hope the bill will improve hiring numbers by allowing workers
to be hired on a part-time or contract basis. Most importantly, the law limits
the amount of back pay a fired worker can collect for wrongful dismissal, a
critical change in a country where employment law suits often dragged on for
years with employers liable for the entire time period of litigation.

The NLRB recently invalidated some portions of Costco’s
employee manual, including its social media policy, which was found to prohibit
activities protected under the NLRA
. The case is a victory for employees in the
face of a growing number of corporate social media guidelines. Costco’s
handbook had a provision that reminded employees that message board posts had
to comply with company policy or the posting employee would face termination. The
NLRB found the limitation on posts encompassed criticisms of company policy
that are protected under NLRA Section 7, such as work environment and wages.
The NLRB has recently begun taking a hard look at company social media policies
given that technology plays a crucial role in modern union communications and
strategy. Employers need to be careful to make sure their social media policies
do not prohibit discussions of concerted employee conduct, and are not so
overly broad as to violate Section 7.