Is bashing your boss online protected speech?

Social media is causing legal challenges to what people can and cannot say about their employers online.

We're all familiar with "water-cooler" talk, but now the lines are blurring with that talk going viral.

The water cooler has always been a hot spot for work gossip, but it's being replaced by Facebook.

Teamsters Local 332 president Nina Bugbee said, "Facebook is the buzz, and it's a major means of communication."

That communication included workers at Genesys Regional Medical Center taking pictures, posting them on Facebook, and people commenting on them.

Genesys' policy says employees may not "Post photographic images of patients, visitors to GHS, other employees, clients, vendors or suppliers, nor pictures of persons engaged in GHS business or events."

The workers say the disciplines ranged from verbal and written reprimands to three to 30 day suspensions.

"We're finding that many workplaces, union and nonunion, that's violating constitutional rights," said Bugbee.

The union filed grievances saying the policy was too broad and not approved by members.

The National Labor Relations Board agreed.

Genesys settled the complaint by dismissing the disciplines.

Lafe Solomon, NLRB acting general counsel said, "The National Labor Relations Act makes it unlawful for employers to interfere with that communication."

In Connecticut an ambulance worker complained about her boss online. She was fired, but then the NLRB stepped in saying that was unconstitutional.

Jonathan Kreisburg, NLRB regional director said, "She was on her own time, on her own resources and that's really what makes the case different."

It's a divisive debate between corporate protection and private rights.

Genesys says it does not comment on personnel matters.

In the Connecticut case, a hearing is set for Jan. 25.