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Is It Legal to Fire Your Employee(s) Who Bad-Mouths You or Your Company on Facebook?

This CNN News video presents a recent case and brings up a hot topic of whether it is legal to fire an employee who complains about his/her supervisor or company on social networking sites. The debate was triggered when an ambulance worker in Connecticut got fired after she criticized her supervisor on Facebook and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) jumped in, stating that such firing is illegal. The company fired this worker because of her “disloyal conducts” and violation of the company’s social media policy. The NLRB, on the contrary, believes her activities are protected.

I believe every organization needs to have a social media policy in place by now. However, no matter if a work place has a social media policy or not, I do not think employees should post anything negative about their bosses, co-workers, or the company they work for on the Internet. I often hear people saying they keep their “personal lives” on social networking sites separated from their “professional lives” at work and as a result, they feel they are free to talk about anything they want. My question is if every person’s posts on social networking sites are restricted to his/her private life, why there are so many news headlines of people getting fired because of their posts about their work. If a person often “bad-mouths” about his/her work and the people around them on social networking sites, why would a company want to promote that person when s/he seems so negative about their work? A professional can be very critical about things sometimes, but quite often, a professional also offers constructive suggestions to help make changes.

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Comments

  1. This situation of workers facebooking or tweeting about their bosses on the internet and being fired is indeed an interesting and reoccurring problem in the work force. In today's society, almost everyone has access to the internet whether its from a smart phone, iPad, or computer the internet has become a billboard for all to see, including your 'psychotic' Boss.
    In the case of the woman from Connecticut being fired for posting comments about her supervisor on Facebook, I believe it was fully wrong of her to use disparaging comments and slander about her boss in her wall posts. Even in terms of the Concerted Activity, where her comment seemed to spark conversation among fellow employees, I feel this woman should be mature and professional enough to realize a post about her Supervisor should have more sentence structure and less exaggerations when posting a comment for all to see.

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  2. I could not agree more with Zach's comment. In my opinion, there is no excuse for the woman to take that avenue of expression besides immaturity. I feel as though employees must step up and think through the potential consequences of their actions before they act. If this employee stepped back from the situation she was in, and considered the possible hype that her comment has made in the media, would she still have posted the comment? Was it merely an outlet for her pent up frustrations with her supervisor,and a moment of rage that was taken too far?
    Even if her accusations were true, there is a better way to go about resolving the issue. Social media just inflates the drama of the incident. Opening up the lines of communication between supervisors and employees in a safe environment is one way from preventing such situations from arising.
    Playing the devils advocate though, I can also see the employees perspective. The Concerted Activity allows you to have this freedom of expression, but there is a time and place for it. Work stays inside the office. Will this employee be able to even get a new job now that her name has been exploited? If she ever applied for a new job, did she believe her potential new employer would not look into her use of social media anyways?

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  3. Thank you very much for your comments, both Amber and Zack. I asked the penal in IHMRS yesterday a question of what social media policy they have in place in their organizations. One penal told the audience that a similar case (like the CNN one) happened to her resort. She turned around the situation by talking with the employee. The employee ended up taking off her post on Facebook and apologized on Facebook. Of course, the resort created a culture that other employees also jumped in and defended for the hotel.

    I agree with you. I believe a true professional will not do anything like that. I hope none of the students in my class will do that. Think before we act --- also, let things sit aside and cool down a little bit before we take further actions might help. :)

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  4. Facebook and Twitter are places where things are often said in the heat of the moment. Most people seldom think of the consequences... for themselves or the people they are lashing out against. I think companies all need to have some sort of policy in place regarding social media. Work issues should be taken care of at work, not online.

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