Facebook Frustration for Employers

Interesting article in the New York Times yesterday raises some concerning issues for employers who fire employees when there is some involvement of Facebook activity.

With many businesses rushing to catch up with the social media wave, and not only online businesses, this article  is a good reminder for employers to look at their internal policies and how they affect and are affected by employees social media activities.

Back to the case in the article, it  seems that an employee was the subject of a complaint from a customer and was upset that her supervisor would not let her get union assistance to prepare her response.

The employee then made disparaging and vulgar comments about the supervisor and the company on her Facebook page and was, not surprisingly, fired. There were apparently additional reasons for her dismissal.

She is now claiming that she was unfairly fired and the National Labor Relations Board has taken up the case. Her claim, eagerly supported by the union, is that her Facebook page is part of a protected activity – employees discussing working conditions .

To me as a past employer in a part of the world where jobs were perpetually in short supply, I find it astounding that there should be any recourse for this person.

Common sense should indicate that if you would not want something  you say to be quoted in more traditional media – newspapers, TV, radio, then don’t put it in the social media. If you make allegations in public about other people or organisations, then be prepared to take the consequences.

If this case should go to court and the company penalised, it would have far reaching implications for all employers, large and small.

Over and above normal employee conduct policies, it might be a good idea for businesses who employ people to manage their social media activities to think this through carefully. What recourse would you have to acts by a disgruntled employee or contractor deliberately making negative comments on your company social media pages?

Even if there is legal recourse, it might be too late to prevent irreparable harm to your image because of the immediacy of social media.

Many Internet Marketers use local or international outsourcing  to update  social media content. Excellent tactic to improve productivity, but  good in-house monitoring is essential to prevent problems down the track.

Wishing you success in all your endeavours.


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  4 comments for “Facebook Frustration for Employers

  1. March 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Peter,

    Great post! I so agree with your comment about common sense, seems few have it. This is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t post anything you wouldn’t want read by anyone online. People really need to use their heads before saying something they’ll later regret.

    I feel the employer had every right to fire this person, but as you say, this could set a precadent and with social media taking off as it has and will continue to grow even more so, there’s got to be policy on it.

    • admin
      March 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Barb.

  2. Michelle
    March 10, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Hi Peter,
    I agree with your post and the other commenter. People forget that facebook and the internet are a public forum.

    My niece was posting comments that I didn’t think was appropriate for a 15 year old or in fact that anyone should have posted. When I pointed this out to her, she said ‘its just an inside joke’. She didn’t get that its not inside when you post it up for everyone to read. She doesn’t understand that when we aren’t ‘in’ on the joke, we read it as it is written! Her mother sees no problem with it either. And of course my niece hasn’t changed. Very inappropriate stuff. I just blocked her so I don’t stress about what may happen.

    I don’t think people see the ripples….


    • admin
      March 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks for commenting Michelle.

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