We have all heard stories regarding employees being fired from organizations due to questionable comments or behaviors they were foolish enough to place on Facebook, Twitter or other social media site. My favorite is the story of a junior executive who called his boss to request a day off because he wasn’t feeling well. A few minutes after the executive hung up the phone with the employee he received an automatic update from his Facebook account via his Blackberry. The ‘sick’ junior executive posted: “What a great day to play hooky from work and my overbearing boss and play a round of golf with friends. Clubs, beer and hotdogs deserve my time more than that big company does!” The employee went on to indicate what time he was playing as well as the name of the golf course. The senior executive jumped in his car, drove to the golf course and immediately terminated the junior executive on the spot. The now jobless employee argued that his Facebook page was personal and for friends only, indicating that he would sue the company for wrongful termination. The senior executive then reminded the ex-employee that he (junior executive) sent him (the boss) a friend request to join his Facebook friends list just 2 weeks prior!
Let me make one thing clear, I am not an attorney nor do I claim to understand the laws that govern what is posted via social media (if there really are any!). That being said, I am in the camp that recommends you do not post anything that you wouldn’t want your current or future employer to find.
This morning msnbc.com reported that an EMT worker in Connecticut was fired from her position after she posted a rant regarding her current supervisor. She insinuated that her supervisor was a psychiatric patient and proceeded to refer to this individual through a number of expletives. The ambulance company states that the employee would have been terminated with or without the Facebook posting due to 2 patient complaints lodged against her in 10 days.
The legal issues in cases like these generally revolve around whether the information on a Facebook page is private and protected under our freedom of speech. The National Labor Relations Board supports the position that this information is in fact covered under freedom of speech and they are entitled to their opinion.
Let’s look at these examples from another, not so legal point of view. In my previous post I talked about good old fashion common sense and how we often forget to use the gray matter that rests between our ears. In my opinion, if we apply common sense to these two now unemployed employees we would ask a simple question, “What were you thinking?” A friend of mine recently used the phrase “you can’t outlive stupid” and these two examples are proof.
How often are we told that information on the internet is permanent? You might be able to take back what you say verbally, however once something permeates the web it’s there for everyone to see. Even if the courts decide that in the case of the EMT worker she was covered by her right to free speech – who would take the chance of hiring her based on what she has already said? Let’s face it, even if the courts rule that employers cannot use information online to make hiring decisions, it happens every day. I am not saying that this practice is wrong or right, it just is.
Let’s employ a little common sense with the prevalence of social media and think about what we are posting before we hit the send key on our computer. Click here for my 5 rules to common sense.