Earlier this fall, my law partner, Marylee Abrams, blogged about several decisions issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning employee’s use of social media. The NLRB decisions thus far have been very fact specific. Many of the cases have determined the employee’s use of social media was “protected concerted activity” under the NLRA, and therefore protected speech.

Now, employers not only have to worry about what employee’s say about them on Facebook and Twitter, but employees are using the internet to start online petitions to try to influence business decisions. Earlier this month, Anthony Hardwick, a part-time cart attendant with Target in Omaha, Nebraska started an online petition requesting Target Corp. push back its midnight opening on Black Friday to 5 a.m. Mr. Hardwick alleges, “A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day. . . A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!” As of today, more than 157,000 people have signed this online petition. Target isn’t the only retailer store who is opening at 12 a.m. on Black Friday; Best Buy Co., Kohl’s Corp. and Macy’s are also opening stores at midnight, and other businesses, including Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and Toys R Us are opening even earlier than midnight.   Petitions similar to the one started by Mr. Hardwick have been started on the Change.org website with the intent to pressure other retailers such as, Best Buy, Old Navy, Macy’s and Wal-Mart to name a few from opening so early.

A Minnesota Target Corp. spokesperson has indicated, Mr. Hardwick is not scheduled to work on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, because he had advised his supervisors earlier this month he was scheduled to work at his full-time job on Black Friday, and needed the day off from Target. Target honored his request.

Target, Best Buy, and the other businesses whose employees have started online petitions against them need to be very careful on how they react to these internet petitions and how they treat the employees who started the petitions. The NLRB could very easily consider these petitions to be “protected concerted activity.”

On the other hand, employees like Mr. Hardwick need to realize they work in retail, and working in retail results in you having to work on holidays. Additionally, there are many other jobs, such as utility workers, hospital personnel, paramedics, fire fighters, law enforcement, jailers, 911 dispatchers, United States military personnel, who are required to work on a holiday, and they don’t get to “break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest.” Thankfully, you don’t hear them complaining about it. Thank you to those hard working individuals who are willing to give us their holidays to keep my family and the rest of us cared for and safe!