Richard A. Dann, local president, said he was not aware of anyone who had been punished by the county as a result of social-media activity.
But Dann filed a separate complaint with the New Jersey Public Employee Relations Commission in September, charging that the policy violated state law because the county did not first negotiate it with the union.
The union asked the county to rescind the policy, he said, but it refused. Violation of the policy can result in termination of employment.
The policy, adopted by the Board of Freeholders last March, prohibits employees from posting pictures, video, or audio of county-related activities or premises on private websites without "prior, express written consent."
The employees say this prevents them from posting on Facebook pictures of themselves at a rally on county property or "holding a sign critical of a county policy."
The policy also says that workers should be "respectful" to the county, coworkers, and residents, and that they cannot use social media to "harass, threaten, libel, malign, defame, disparage or discriminate" against anyone associated with the county or the county's reputation. The suit says that because words such as disparage are not defined, employees are unsure what is acceptable activity. The policy thus "chills the rights of county employees to speak as citizens on matters of public concern."
In June 2011, the suit says, Blaszczyk criticized State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a former county freeholder director, on Facebook. "Beware of republicans in democrat clothing," he wrote. Blaszczyk has not posted similar criticisms online since the policy was enacted "for fear of being disciplined," the suit says. The county's lawyer, Christopher Orlando, said in an e-mail that "the county's social media policy seeks to protect its employees from unlawful cyber bullying, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by means of social media."
"The county's policy strikes the proper balance between protecting its employees and respecting employees' rights," he said.
The National Labor Relations Board issued a ruling last month giving workers broad power to criticize their employers on sites such as Facebook.
Philip L. Harvey, a professor at the Rutgers-Camden School of Law who specializes in labor law, said the ruling meant that "employee speech can be protected even if it would seem very harsh to a disinterested eye." Harvey, who has not reviewed Gloucester County's policy, said states usually followed the NLRB's lead. But, he added, case law holds that "there's a fine line between the employee's right as a citizen to comment on the conduct of the government and the employee's duty as a public employee to act in the best interest of his or her employer."
The board's minority, Republicans Larry Wallace and Vincent Nestore, voted against the policy. Wallace said Thursday he "fought vigorously against it," but declined to comment further because he is named in the lawsuit.
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