Fired Over Facebook Post

Can your Facebook status messages get you fired?

After a ruling on a current legal battle, they may! In a recent ground-breaking case involving social media usage by employees, specifically Facebook, one woman is challenging the cause of being fired. The National Labor Relations Board has brought a case against a Connecticut ambulance service, American Medical Response, for firing an employee after she used Facebook to vent her work frustrations. The employer accused the employee of violating their privacy policy by posting a disparaging remark that read, “love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor” – a 17 is the term they use for a psychiatric patient.

The Labor Regulations Board claims that the company’s privacy policy is too broad and interferes with an individuals right to free speech. They believe that posting such a message on your Facebook is no different than gossiping with a co-worker around the water cooler. On the other hand the company believes that these remarks are not protected under the law and were negative personal attacks on the supervisor. This suit could set a precedent for other cases involving termination due to social media. There is a lack of legislation in place to protect both employers and employees from open social media forums. Other cases have been cited, but none have set precedent.

Despite the outcome of this particular case, the practical implications in the workplace are clear: social networking sites will be used to police employee behavior, screen prospective hires, gather customer data, surfing habits and buying patterns and, as of now, to support civil and criminal litigation based on the content of your posts, pictures and profile. Until you customize your privacy settings, utilize friend groups, exclude search engines, refuse friend requests from people who aren’t actually your friends, and consciously monitor what you post, you can expect the volumes of data you produce on social networking sites to increase not only your human connections, but your information exposure as well.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of Stolen Lives and Privacy Means Profit (Wiley, August 2010), a professional Social Networking Speaker and America’s leading identity theft expert. His clients include the Department of Defense, FTC, FDIC and Pfizer; his recent media appearances include 60 Minutes. Contact him on 800.258.8076.