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Can Facebook Get You Fired?

The Story

Angry at her boss, an ambulance company employee posted negative comments about him on her Facebook page.  Three weeks later, the employee was fired.  The company claims that the employee was terminated for other reasons, but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is suing for illegal discharge.  The claim is based on the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees' "concerted activity."  The claim also challenges the company's social media policy, which tries to curb employees' online comments about their companies. This case will be an interesting one to watch!

Update (2/8/11): The case was settled, which doesn't change laws around Facebook posts but does put companies on notice.

 

Discussion Starters

  • The employee, Dawnmarie Souza, used strong language about her supervisor.  Legal or not, what's your view on whether this was a good idea?  
  • What situations have you encountered where employees' (or students') Facebook post have gotten them in trouble?

Assignment Ideas

  • First, consider NLRB's news release about the case.  In the third paragraph, the NLRB states that "the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission."  Next, review a company's social media policy. (You'll find many here.)  Does the company's policy include language that restricts an employee's online activity?  If so, write an email to the company's VP, social media, explaining the situation and warning him or her that the policy is in question (although nothing has been decided yet).
  • Research other cases where employees have been terminated for online comments.  Choose one situation to discuss with the rest of the class.  Do you think the termination was appropriate in this case?  Why or why not?
  • Look at your Facebook page.  Are there any posts that could be called into question by a past or potential future employer?