Why Your Boss Should Be Able to Fire You Over Facebook

by Evil HR Lady on January 21, 2011

Should your employer be able to fire you over something you posted on the internet? Yes, and here’s why.

Why Your Boss Should Be Able to Fire You Over Facebook

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

S.L. Æris January 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

You are evil.

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Lauren January 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm

"Free speech" isn't really relevant here. The right to free speech protects us from the government infringing on that right, not our employer (unless, of course, we work in the public sector). We have no right to free speech in our private workplaces.

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The Seasick Mermaid January 21, 2011 at 5:28 pm

For a minute there, I thought you were advocating firing people via a facebook status update: "You're fired! Can you spare any Farmville sheep? LOL." That would be evil.

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Suzanne Lucas January 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Ha! Seasick mermaid. That truly would be evil.

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LK January 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm

You make some really good points, EHRL, but I disagree. I think the idea of firing over Facebook/Whatever posts is a really fine line. When I go home today, if I want to write "Glad it's the weekend, my boss was a jerk today" that shouldn't get me fired because someone from work happens to see it. Now, if I write "ABC Company is run by cotton-headed ninnymuggins," then to me that is still maybe fireable, maybe not. I think keeping a clear boundary between the office & social media is the best practice, unless it's something really egregious.

That said, I keep my social media on the highest private settings available, and I don't include any information about my employer. I also never ever use facebook, etc to contact work people – I use it only for people from my personal life.

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Anonymous January 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I get paid for my time, my loyalty costs considerably more.

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Anonymous January 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I have some work people on Facebook, but only one of them was my supervisor and she's not at the company any more. That said, I don't post work rants on Facebook anyway.

I like the part about bosses not snooping on their employees. It's understandable they can't be on Facebook at work, but what happens on their own time is their OWN BUSINESS. When I'm at home, I don't talk about work and I try not to even think about it. That's my time.

–Anonymous because I'm too lazy to post my email/URL right now

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Film Co. Lawyer January 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Sorry, I have to disagree on companies getting to fire people for being babies about being called "jerk." Have we never heard of speaking to someone about WHY they might say that about someone? Then you might have better grounds for firing someone or could simply transfer them to new department where they might be happier.

For that matter, what if the boss is breaking the law, sleeping with someone, or doing who knows what while the higher ups are turning a blind eye & there's no one else to turn to? Online publication might be all you have to stop it.

I think if someone posts a trade secret or confidential material as included in a signed confidentiality agreement, it's fine to fire them. But to require employees to be cheerleaders off the clock? I don't think so. Pay a better salary if you want THAT to happen. Or save gag orders for people working for the federal government, like an attorney friend of mine.

Personally, I want to know if someone is engaging in discrimination or has an unpleasant atmosphere that would be repugnant to me. I don't think the person kind enough to be honest with me should be penalized for it.

By the way, truth IS a defense to defamation. In fact, I have a rant blog that my business partner (the CEO of the company) supports. No one's going to fire ME for speaking my mind since I'm not an employee & I feel it's not only my obligation but my duty to inform people if a particular company is rude to job applicants, turns a blind eye to sex in the workplace, steals from investors, is abusive to workers, etc.

For my part, I stay away from day jobs where I'd be miserable or odious practices are going on. I also adamantly will not friend anyone who is an employer if said employer does not respect my freedom of self-expression or wants to pry into my life. Nor will I ever post anything online I wouldn't say right to your face.

At least in entertainment, you're encouraged to be creative & express yourself as well as warn others about shady companies/toxic workplaces. You can be ruined in my field if you knew about shadiness & didn't speak up.

I think bosses who snoop need a drastic pay cut since they have too little work to do if they're wasting time on that. I would certainly never want to do business with such a company.

As for unemployed lawyers, I have pointed out that fact to people posting Craig's List ads demanding gender & age requirements as well as demanding pictures before deciding who to interview for an alleged job. I wholeheartedly agree that if you're the interviewer, you don't want to see people's personal pages if you know what's good for you for those precise reasons.

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Anonymous January 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm

you have an error in your linked article. The NLRA protects ALL employees, not just union ones, from retaliation for certain "concerted activities" among which is discussing work conditions, pay, etc.

I think the widely reported NLRB case in question is actually a non-union employee.

The same law is the one that prohibits company rules like "thou shalt not discuss your salary".

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fposte January 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Anon 3:48–she herself does seem to have been a Teamster, but you're right that the NLRB and legal discussants seem pretty clear that this isn't about a violation of a CLB but, as you say, a violation of labor law that applies to all employees, unionized or not.

Of course, EHRL is arguing that you *should* be able to be fired, not necessarily that you *can* be fired, but I think it's a good point to note that right now you do risk the possibility of breaching federal law for doing so, depending on the circumstances.

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Suzanne Lucas January 23, 2011 at 5:43 am

Anon–You're right and i'm wrong. THe NLRB does handle some non-union things. Oops. Typing faster than my brain can recall.

But, I'm pretty sure this is a union case. If I'm wrong, let me know. I read this as part of the problem: "illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview, and maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy."

http://www.ctemploymentlawblog.com/2010/11/articles/hr-issues/nlrb-alleges-that-connecticut-company-illegally-fired-employee-over-comments-on-facebook/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ConnecticutEmploymentLawBlog+%28Connecticut+Employment+Law+Blog%29

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Another Evil HR Director January 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm

As an HR Director, I am constantly faced with inappropriate use of facebook on company time; derogatory comments about supervisors or the company. There is a fine line as to when someone should be fired over those comments, but the ability to do so needs to be protected. In this entitlement-minded society, people need to know they cannot do whatever they want, whenever they want, without some consequence.

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Mike January 24, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Ms. Lucas -

It's easy to make the post you do when you're dealing with a normal company that follows reasonable rules and policies.

For a time my significant other worked at a place where it was expected that supervisors be friended in facebook. And if they sensed you were locking them out of your posts, they would talk to you about the issue.

So not only could she not use her account as she wanted, none of her friends could either for fear of upsetting her bosses.

But hey, the magic of easy firing, right? Absolutely trivial to find a new job, right?

@ Another Evil HR Director -

Are you real? You find people "entitled" when they have an opinion you don't like? Really?

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Another Evil HR Director January 25, 2011 at 2:19 am

@Mike: No. Sorry, I should have expanded on that comment. I was referring to people who think they are owed a job, regardless of whether they come to work on a regular basis, or perform any work when they do show up (just one example).

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Anonymous January 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm

So, the moral of the story is: when you blog, do so 'on behalf' of your boss, writing about his boss….

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Mike January 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm

@AEHRD Thanks for the clarification!

@Anon 3:25:

I know this was in jest, but this raises a serious issue: how does a company know that the person who is posting on the internet who they say they are? It's easier on Facebook, but there are plenty of false accounts, especially if someone isn't already a member.

What happens when someone is fired (and it will happen eventually I'm sure) because someone else was posting under their name or management was confused about who was making the post in the first place?

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Anonymous January 26, 2011 at 6:58 am

I think it should be possible to address those concerns. The following precautions should be sufficient

- Always blog from a public WiFi spot

- Use a machine dedicated exclusively to the task to do so. A cheap netbook or second hand portable will work nicely

- Use multiple WiFi spots, centered on your boss' home

- Pay cash for both the computer, and anything related to hotspot usage (e.g. a latte at Starbucks)

- Always wait a few days before posting about an event

- Make sure timings are plausible. The easiest way to do so would be to make sure that your boss leaves work before you do

- Don't get carried away. Remember George Joseph Smith

That should cover most questions which might arise as to the identity of the blogger.

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Elsie January 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Maybe I'm just living in a corporate bubble — but do other companies not have social media rules? We are locked down on our workstations so we can't access social media, but if we are caught defaming the company through social media in any way on our own time (or even saying "here's a product that's really cool that's coming out next week!") we can be fired. Its in black and white.

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