Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Facebook Got Me Fired

How many times have we been warned to be extremely careful about what we write on the Internet, especially on social networking sites. Nowadays employers and college recruiters resort to sites like Facebook and Twitter to investigate someone's personal life, things that we wouldn't otherwise know, before deciding to make them a member of their professional community. There have been many instances in which a person lost an opportunity due to the content posted on their profile or even removed from the position they held.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a federal agency who acts on behalf of union workers to ensure that their rights as an employee are not violated and that there are no unfair practices by the employer and company. Recently the NLRB began reviewing cases to verify that employees were fired on fair grounds where they were fired due to remarks posted on Facebook. The NLRB guidelines states that a comment would not be in violation if it is concerted activity, or something that would lead to "group action" which includes forming a union or discussing working conditions in hopes of a resolution. Some tend to make the comparison of discussions about work on Facebook to workers congregating at the water cooler discussing work. But if an employee posts a comment and those responding are not co-workers then this would be a violation because the discussion does not lead to possible improvements in the workplace.

In these instances employees are venting their frustrations but they can take it too far. One case involved a bartender who had a conversation with his sister via Facebook referring to his customers as "rednecks" and that he hoped they "choke on glass as they drove home drunk." Since his conversation was not with a co-worker the NLRB ruled it to be a violation and that his dismissal was valid. The memorandum drafted by the NLRB shows the owner of the bar sent his employee a message through Facebook saying "that his services were no longer required," ah what a twist!

It is understandable that an employer would fire a worker if what they say reflects negatively aganist the company thereby hurting its image. Even though you are speaking outside of the workplace it can still have an effect on your position. Comments made on the Internet are usually readily available to the public which can change their perception of a company once read. There are cases which I believe resulted in an unnecessary firing. If an employee continuously bashes a company saying the products sold are worthless crap or if the customer service is horrible then yes that would be grounds for dismissal because it can harm profits. But if the comments are in regard to a fellow co-worker who the employee cannot get along with that has no effect on the company's performance. It really is a personal matter that should be resolved between the two workers.

Here are a more examples of people that were fired because of what they posted on social networking sites.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great topic and seems to be trending right now. I believe this is partly due to the fact that the economy is so bad. I think that New New media has put a magnifying glass to an old issue by propelling it into the hyper-media society in which we live.
    I believe that it is a thin line between the hampering of free speech versus the importance of socialization for the workers of any organization.
    In the Marine Corps we have very tight regulations on free or any speech for that fact. On the flip side of that issue it is stressed to leaders that the younger, and all Marines have a human right to socialize. This need becomes excaserbated in times of stress, which we have many in the Corps.
    The social media and New New Media has presented this viable outlet and many people are using it as a part of stress relief. I believe that every organization's human resource deparment has responsibility to determine the needs of each company. For example, Lockheed Martin who holds many government and defense contracs might require a tighter hold on worker communication versus McDonald's.
    I think this topic will increase in importance as more legislation is passed regarding this issue. Maybe a supreme court hearing even? I'm hoping that free speech does win in the end because let's face it, who would want to work for a company with no water coolers?