Enterprise Software

Employees using social media: How many times do we have to tell you?

Two more cases of employees being let go for comments they made through Facebook and Twitter.

It seems like every week there are a couple of social media-induced lawsuits in the news. And there is no end in sight, as people try to figure out (again) what speech is free and what speech is slanderous and damaging. Here are a couple of recent lawsuits in the news.

NLRB sues not-for-profit in firing of workers for Facebook posts

The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint in the firing of five employees who complained on Facebook about working conditions at Hispanics United of Buffalo, a not-for-profit that provides social services to low-income clients.

One employee posted a comment on her Facebook page by a co-worker who complained that other employees did not do enough to help the organization's clients. This was followed by at least five other employees defending themselves and pointing out the excessive workload and poor working conditions.

The employees who pointed out the issues with the organization were then fired on the grounds that their comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post

The complaint is subject to a June 22 hearing in the NLRB's Buffalo office unless a settlement is reached.

NLRB upholds firing of tweeting newspaper reporter

Ironically, the NLRB recently held that an Arizona newspaper had the legal right to fire a reporter over the content of messages he was posting to Twitter. In September 2010, Arizona-based Arizona Daily Star fired its crime and public safety reporter for publishing what the paper considered "unprofessional and inappropriate tweets" using his Twitter account.

He was reprimanded initially for criticizing the paper's copy editors. He was asked to stop tweeting regarding matters related to his workplace. Afterwards, he began tweeting about issues that had to do with his job as a crime reporter, including:

• Aug. 27: "You stay homicidal, Tucson. See Star Net for the bloody deets."

  • Aug. 30: "What?!?!? No overnight homicide? WTF? You're slacking Tucson."

• Sept. 10: "Suggestion for new Tucson-area theme song: Droening [sic] pool's ‘let the bodies hit the floor.' "

• Sept. 10: "I'd root for daily death if it always happened in close proximity to Gus Balon's."

• Sept. 10: "Hope everyone's having a good Homicide Friday, as one Tucson police officer called it."

THE NLRB ruled on the firing, saying that it did not violate a provision of the National Labor Relations Act that protects communications by employees as long as they relate to working conditions or employment terms.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

32 comments
DocPc58
DocPc58

I know that as an employee of a large IT business that we were told in no uncertain terms not to discuss our business or make rants on Facebook about work loads or other employees and that even team leaders and supervisors were told that they could not be friends on Facebook with other employees or face a write up or a day off without pay . That's fine given the nature of the beast i prefer to be employed than not .

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I am amazed that someone can be let go for making a comment on FB... even if it were stupid, insensitive, or even dare i say it completely bigoted... people have flaws, that's just a reality... but the question i would ask you as an employer, is if your staff are so invaluable, that you can sack them for a little faux pas, wtf did you hire them for in the first place?

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

I don't see what the big deal is. I mean, before social media, if you complained about the place you worked and someone from work found out about it, you got the crap assignments, the worst place at the office, and you were made uncomfortable until you left. Or you got a bad review and you were gone. Social media is just a different medium. I have one "social media" account (LinkedIn), and I have it because a bunch of peers was on the site. It is a glorified resume, linked to people I know. I don't do the other social media, and if I ever would, I would do what others have said here already - don't link it to your name, etc.

GuardianBob
GuardianBob

What do you call "social media"? Do you mean the websites created by/for the corporates to spy on people and for marketers to get new ideas to scheme people? OK, I didn't know you called those "Social media"! Get it now? Stop whinning and do some research, you'll find the truth under the rocks, don't believe ANY media, they are all bought nowadays, no more FREE PRESS, it is only BS to keep you under their grips. Still believing is "social media"? You must be real thick!

leo8888
leo8888

Every time I see another article like this one it just reinforces my opinion of the whole social networking scene. In our office I think I am the only person who doesn't have a facebook account. I sat back and watched the explosion of social media unfold along with all the drama. I've seen friends and family get into arguments or stop speaking because of things posted on facebook. Once of my co-workers who managed to get linked to my wife through facebook because of the farmville game they both play always seems to know more about what is happening in my home than I do. I may be considered "old fashioned" or "backwards" since I work around computers for a living and don't have anything to do with social networking, but I would rather not have any details of my personal life posted online for everyone to view.

cloud_a_rama
cloud_a_rama

I think that this is way overboard if the conditions described were accurate how is that slanderous ( slan??der??ous - adjective???/??sland??r??s/ (of a spoken statement) False and malicious - slanderous allegations). the reporter didn't do anything wrong either making references to his city as he sees it is about perception and utilizing other peoples comments just reinforces his perception. he didn't say "this *company name* is *insert untruths here* he merely stated his perception. the biggest problem in this country is all this hooplah over what people say. not like anyone buys a newspaper anymore anyway when every legitimate news source offers their stories on the web. i haven't bought a paper anything in i don't know how long. as for the employers looking at my social network info they can't see it as i am unsearchable as well as completely private to all but friends and no employers are on my friends list and i keep it that way. not like he was utilizing his account to look for kiddie pr0n or a under-aged hooker. as for the non-profit people if there was truth to their statements in the working conditions then why isn't the health dept., OSHA etc... looking at the employer? oh lets let the poor working conditions continue we need to worry more about what our employees are saying about us as opposed to fixing the problems with our facilities. and everyone is over worked and under paid.

kyds3k
kyds3k

was that a pun, or do we have to let you go for bad grammar?

dan.ader
dan.ader

Except for the part where you post a comment on a blog?

taleya
taleya

Plausible deniability! I have FB and twitter - neither under my real name. FB is so locked down you cannot even see my profile (and default pic is not me) and Twitter is completely disassociated. They even run via a gmail account as opposed to my usual email. If an employer wants to start something, they have to prove it's me....and good luck with that! (Mind you, I'm not stupid enough to leave work rants in a publicly accessible forum....)

pikeman666
pikeman666

How did we ever manage to survive before all this distraction? Before MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? And now it's become another way to confirm someone else's opinion that you are a fool, or a tool, and then lose your job. I won't have any part of it . . .

brad
brad

Most likely the tweets represent the daily attitude of the individual at work. I agree with mckinnej. Perhaps the tweet is the straw that broke the camel's back. Thank goodness no lawyers were hurt in the whole affair. :-p

mckinnej
mckinnej

In many cases they were just looking for an excuse to get rid of them. As long as they're more or less doing their job, labor laws make it difficult to just get rid of someone who doesn't fit in or play nice with others. So they look for anything that even remotely looks like misconduct, which is grounds for firing. See that all the time in unemployment benefits cases.

wayoutinva
wayoutinva

Better to let the world think you fool, then to open your mouth (or in this case let your fingers do the typing) and dispell all doubt...funny how even in this "enlightned" age that still holds true...

Robiisan
Robiisan

...then what's the point if you don't link it to your name?

ctbeckyw
ctbeckyw

The problem is that "common" sense doesn't seem to be so common.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Stop whinning and do some research, you'll find the truth..." It's your position; present your own evidence. Don't trot out a statement and then challenge others to dig up your support for you. How are you different from the media you accuse of slinging BS? If there is no more free press, where do you expect people to do this research? Either provide your own links to evidence (preferably unbiased ones) or expect to be considered a whack job. If I thought I needed a 'Guardian' on the Internet (or anywhere else), I'd stay away.

cjohn1
cjohn1

most of my wife's friends know more about what is going on in my house than I do. My wife accomplishes this with a relatively old fashion telephone

da philster
da philster

Social networking ............ how on earth did people exist without it ? Well, "social networking" in the true sense always existed. People actually talked to each other in person; actually spoke to each other on a phone; actually wrote to each other. Friends were actually friends and the definition of "friend" was understood. It worked. Now we have this major electronic time suck where pricacy is thrown out the window. Don't need it; don't want it; thank you very much.

alandc
alandc

Right, I'm sorry. It was supposed to read "no, end insight" - my bad!

Too-Tired Techie
Too-Tired Techie

Getting ribbed because someone comments about why they don't comment and chatter like everyone else... Hard to make a contribution by being silent. If that's the case then millions have voiced their opinion by not commenting on this blog... Is a meta-comment the same as a regular comment?

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

Why even bother opening a Facebook or Twitter account if you're not even going use your real name or lock down your account?

Lackosleep
Lackosleep

LOL! data mining tools make it easy to figure out who you are... based on tertiary and lower level relationships of identifying data, which are difficult for most of us to keep track of, or even be conscious of. I once got sample diapers sent to a fictitious work profile right after I had a baby!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it's no worse than any other time suck, electronic or otherwise. How did we manage before? We had other time sucks. Trends come and go; all we've done is shift focus again.

Jaipo
Jaipo

and yet you have the time to post inanely on web pages... is this not social media also?

seanferd
seanferd

Opinions ostensibly based on facts, opinions which are meant to not merely be an expression, but intended to affect how various social constructs "should be". No evidence ever provided. Lots of claims, though.

seanferd
seanferd

was even better. Campaign now to end insight!. What, we're done already?

stephen
stephen

Or even: "no end in sight" ? :)

seanferd
seanferd

So you can connect with other people who know you by an online identity, but you don't want every jackass you knew from high-school trying to chat you up or go to some function. Or idiot neighbors or employers. Stalkers. A repressive government. Whomever. Although I'm more in the "why bother" camp myself, there are plenty of people who link to interesting content on FB pages that is inaccessible if you don't have a login. And don't forget those Flash games people like so much, which are only available on FB.

rtfm-please
rtfm-please

lol...the more devious teckie wins everytime. google probably has pictures of the birth.

The Truth
The Truth

His post is far more intelligent than yours.