Saturday, February 12, 2011

Social Media and Employee Speech

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) forced a settlement on American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. after AMR fired an employee (and Teamsters member) who went home from work and profanely blasted her supervisor as being mentally ill on Facebook. Other employees posted responses supporting the employee.

The law protects the free discussion of working terms and conditions, and concerted activity, even in a crude and lewd manner in a public Internet space.

AMR agreed to loosen its Internet policies and a confidential settlement was reached with the former employee.

Since the employee posted from her home computer the issue of social media use on the job was not addressed, but it is another thorny problem.

In reviewing multiple news reports, various attorneys weighed in on the impacts of this ruling . It is likely we will need more cases to get a better definition of the boundaries, and there is no indication the ruling contradicts various laws protecting patient and customer privacy, intellectual property or prohibiting the dissemination of insider information. No indication how this might mesh with slander and defamation laws.

The NLRB announced the results of its settlement - on its Facebook page - of course.

To Integrate or Not to Integrate

The Obama administrative, and especially the Department of Health and Human Services, is pushing the notion of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and similar innovative integration strategies to improve the cost-benefit ratio of health care services. This is integral to PPACA ("Obamacare.")

ACOs and other integrated provider networks are to provide 1) better coordination of care and 2) lower cost, perhaps through a bundled payment system. The exact form of these organizations is still evolving.

The Federal Trade Commission appears to be preparing to hammer physicians and hospitals under the assumption ACOs and the like are anti-competitive. This is consistent with pre-PPACA enforcement policies. Reports and lawyer gossip say there is a tug-of-war between the two agencies, with the Justice Department being more sympathetic to the integration.

To be fair, the FTC is supposed to enforce the laws on the books, perhaps we need some clarification from Congress?

A little clarity would speed the integration and further the intent of PPACA, IMHO.