Should Companies Fire Employees For Facebook Comments?

by Vault Careers | November 12, 2010

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In the past, if you wanted to complain about your boss or your job, all you had to do have a heart-felt venting session with a friend. However, in today’s social media friendly environment, where all your friends are gathered on one site, it has become easier and even more efficient to post your complaints on places like Facebook. And while that might be considered a good thing to some, those comments are now coming back to haunt those who post them. What should be considered private and how should one approach social media in the work place?

Those are exactly the questions that will be answered as the National Labor Relations Board fights against the Connecticut-based ambulance service—American Medical Response—for firing emergency medical technician Dawn Marie Souza last December after she posted disparaging comments about her supervisor on Facebook. The case is considered groundbreaking because of the lack of precedence when dealing with social media sites and the right to free speech, as it pertains to comments made about the workplace.

According to the NLRB, Souza is protected by the National Labor Act, which prohibits employers from taking action against employees for discussing working conditions. The board also contends that because it was Souza’s own page and the comments were made on her own time and in her own home, that she did nothing to warrant termination. American Medical Response, which does have an Internet policy that NLRB calls too broad, counters that Souza was not fired for her Facebook post, but rather based on complaints made about her on two separate occasions in 2009. Who is in the right?

According to an ongoing Vault.com poll, as of November 12, 2010, 52% of respondents believe that employees should be fired for comments that could harm a business, with 2% adding that employees should not expect privacy on their page. However, 46% of survey respondents believe employees should not be fired for Facebook posts; believing companies should not look at employee Facebook pages and that everyone should be allowed to vent about their jobs.

Since Facebook is a gathering place for friends, should companies understand and expect employees to vent on such social media sites? Or should companies have the right to protect its reputation from negative employee comments on Facebook? You tell us. Leave a comment below.

-- Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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