A young woman was having a bad day when she posted on Facebook, around the first anniversary of her mother's death, that some days she wished she were fired so she could just stay at home. The next day she got her wish: her employer fired her.1
A waitress posted a bill that her coworker picked up after serving a large party at the restaurant. The restaurant had automatically added a gratuity of 18 percent. Instead of leaving the tip, the customer wrote a message for the waiter on the check: "I give God 10 percent, why should you get 18?" Thinking it was funny, the worker posted a picture of the bill. However, the customer's signature on the bill was clearly legible. After he found out and complained to the restaurant's manager about the post, the employer fired the worker for infringing upon customer privacy.2
These are just two examples of posts that resulted in people getting fired. Each case raises the question: Was firing them excessive or justified?
Facebook's mission is to make the world a "more open and connected" place. Social networks are exploding in popularity, with almost half of all Americans twelve or older maintaining a profile on at least one site, according to a recent Edison Research study. And as more people visit the sites, more are crossing boundaries their employers don't want crossed.
Unfortunately, the site's users can sometimes be a bit too open, posting pictures, opinions, videos, and 'jokes' via the social networking site that give employers pause and employees the boot. One potential pitfall for companies is worker criticism of employers on social media posts. Workers who gripe about their boss or colleagues on Facebook may again be at risk of getting fired.
The City of Charlotte's recently adopted policy warns employees to "exercise sound judgment and discretion" on their personal sites "to ensure a distinct separation between personal and organizational views."
Inappropriate use, the policy notes, "may be grounds for disciplinary action."
"Such social networking references are becoming more and more important and helpful both for employers and employees" , says Reinhard von Hennigs, Managing Partner of BridgehouseLaw Charlotte and a North Carolina attorney who counsels employers on handling workers and social networks.
Author: Andreas Weitzell, Trainee Charlotte Office