American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
November 10th, 2010
07:12 AM ET

Fired for Facebooking? Prof explains why your job may mean you're safe

Ever bad mouth your boss on Facebook? Gotten so frustrated at work that you updated your status and shared with all your friends?

When one Connecticut worker criticized her boss on the social networking site, she was heard…by her supervisors, who ultimately fired her over the posts.

Now, the National Labor Relations Board is firing back in the worker’s favor. They say the firing is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act because Facebook, in this case, serves as a type of workplace watercooler where employees weigh in on working conditions.

Paul Callan, professor of media law at Seton Hall University, joins AM’s John Roberts to explain the controversial case, and the importance of the distinction between union workers and non-union workers.

And, Callan tells you if the Act could cover you and your Facebook page, depending on your job title.


Filed under: American Morning • Facebook • Social Media
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Splinter48708

    Here's my take. When you are at home, on your own computer, or otherwise not accountable to the company...in other words, off the company clock and not being paid for your time, the company has absolutely no right to infringe upon you and interfere with you. No right to discipline you for Facebook postings, Myspace stuff, Twitter. Also, this extends to message boards or blogs.

    This will, if the employer loses, ice what employers think is a right to dictate what a person can and cannot do on their free time. Also, to be honest, "at-will" states should reconsider that position and amend that to remove the at will status to make sure that the employer has a justifiable reason to fire someone, and lawmakers should also make sure that free speech is protected. Companies have long held that over us. In an at will state, if the boss don't like the way you look...you're fired. He doesn't have to justify anything, just fire you without worrying that the employee will be able to contest that. It gives the company way too much power over the employee.

    Isn't slavery illegal? Sure, you're working for some company, but, when company rules extend beyond the company property into the home and to online postings, then, that makes the employee a slave to the company. "Sorry...but, even when you're not on our clock...you're a slave to company rules and we will fire you if you post anything about us we don't like."

    November 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  2. MeLoN

    People do not have the right to work for any one Company. They work for a Company at the Company's discretion and if you have a complaint – you should take it up with that Company and not be posting insulting/disparaging comments on social networking sites. Put the shoe on the other foot – if you owned the company or was the boss – should the people that work for YOU have the right to insult you?

    November 11, 2010 at 6:15 am |
  3. LENAY BROCKINGTON

    YESTERDAY I REPORTED TO WORK(SOUTHERN GARDENS IN LAKE ALFRED FL,THE ADM SAY TO WE NEED TO SEE YOU IN OUR OFFICE.SO MUCH DRAMA STRESS AT THE JOB.THEY TOLD ME THAT THERE FIRING ME DUE TO MY COMMENT ON FACEBOOK.THEN TOLD ME THEY DONT HAVE TO GIVE AND LETTER STATING THE TERMINATION OF MY JOB. WHAT THEY CAN DO IS GIVE ME GOOD REFERNCE FOR ME, VERY DEPENDABLE,ALWAYS ON TIME,HARD WORKING BUT THE POLICY OF THAT COMPANY. IS TO SAY THEY DONT REHIRE.THANK YOU, HAINE CITY FL 33844

    November 11, 2010 at 1:17 am |
  4. Lily

    You WORK for a company – they DO NOT own YOU!
    What you are saying is against our civil liberties.
    Companies have gone back to the 1940's mentality trying to get Americans to believe they are doing us a favor by GIVING us a job and that every breath we take – we are representing the Company. That's BS. And you are both right when you say it is hard to judge since we do not know what was written.
    Please do not have us to believe that we all have not been somewhere in a "social" setting, had a horrible day and said our boss was stupid or a jerk or an incompetent. Well, in that "social" setting (i.e. bar, ball park, mall, restaurant, etc.) everyone may have heard it, read your lips, etc. or a friend of your boss may have heard it. It's your opinion and you have a first amendment right to have that opinion.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  5. Tim Pacileo

    No one mentioned whether the company had a social media policy in place and if they did would the outcome have been different.

    A good social media policy would have cover what the employee could and could not say about the company on-line even if it was her own site, becasue she would have been educated about what she could and could not state with regards to her company and or boss.

    According to Eric B. Meyer, who’s an Associate in the Labor and Employment Group of Dilworth Paxson LLP, what companies should consider from a legal perspective in developing a social media policy are.

    * “Employers need to be upfront with employees that they have no right to privacy with respect to social networking. “Employers reserve the right to monitor employee use of social media regardless of location (i.e. at work on a company computer or on personal time with a home computer).”
    * Employees “should be made aware that company policies on anti-harassment, ethics and company loyalty extend to all forms of communication (including social media) both inside and outside the workplace.” People need to remember that bashing your organization/boss/co-workers online can lead to consequences at work.”

    I am sure if they did have a company policy covering social media and it was approved by the Union, in this specific case, this employee would have lost her job, however by not having one in place the company has no where to turn but to the local, US laws and the union rules.

    A recent study released in 1/2010 found only 29% of companies had a social media policy. With these types of stories making headline news maybe we will begin to see a higher adoption rate

    November 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  6. Jenn

    I don't think a person "should" be fired for criticizing their boss, however, I agree that it's not smart to make comments without at least allowing for the possibility that it could get you fired.

    There may be merit to the comments this lady made and we all have a right to free speech in this country, including on Facebook. However, in any job I've ever had, if a person had serious issues with a supervisor, they were instructed to take it upstairs, not shout it all over the place. This protects both the employer and the employee – employees have to protect themselves by following the rulebook and not making a bad reputation for themselves because just about any employer will hang you out to dry and will not have your back.

    There are exceptions to this, but those are the employers nobody complains about. 🙂

    November 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  7. Raven Tollett-Harris

    I was recently fired for posting a satire remark about one of my supervisors who had been constantly harassing me at my job. I'm in the process of filing a lawsuit. Any suggestions?

    November 10, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  8. Vernon E. Cole

    If this was done on company time and a company computer then the bosses had every right to fire the worker. They were being paid to work, not facebook. Why should consumers have to pay higher prices because the workers are using company time to do something that is to be done on their own time?

    November 10, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  9. myk c

    Melon was right, it's "hard to make judgement not knowing what was said exactly". But if the employee's statement didn't jeopardize her job, I'd say it's her right to express herself where she wanted and the way she wanted to, save it will not cross the (thin) line between freedom of expression and libel or oral defamation.

    As long as it's right where you stand, you have the right to criticize anybody even a President of the country, so the heck with your boss. Just my two cents.

    November 10, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  10. Dan

    I kind of agree with MeLoN; however, if you are upset with your boss, the dumbest thing you can do is post negative comments on line.
    My question is does Connecticut have the work at will law, where an employer can dismiss an employee for no reason? if so, I don't see much hope for this individual in the legal avenue.

    November 10, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  11. MeLoN

    An old saying came to mind when I read/heard this story – don't bite the hand that feeds you but I suppose it depends on what was said. Hard to make a judgement not knowing what was said exactly. Right off hand I'd say if someone is criticizing their boss they should be fired.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:24 am |