Fired for Facebook ‘likes’
By Kate Southam
Social media is a great way to find a job and to network but even clicking on the “like” button can be a career limiting move as two separate cases in the US highlight.
In one case a Library of Congress employee claims he was fired after clicking “like” on a Facebook page for same sex parents. In the other case, a group of workers at a sheriff’s department claim they were fired after clicking on the like button on the Facebook page of their bosses’ political rival. In the US, Sheriffs must stand for election.
The library employee, Peter TerVeer, claims his once positive performance reviews turned negative after he “liked” the Two Dads Facebook page. He claims his supervisor tried eventually fired him. TerVeer has filed a complaint with the Library of Congress Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints office, which is yet to rule on the matter.
In the other case, a group of employees of a Virginia Sheriff’s office were fired after their boss was re-elected sheriff. The sheriff claimed the sackings were for poor work performance, workplace disharmony and budget issues. The sacked workers took the matter to court claiming their First Amendment right to free speech under the US Constitution had been violated.
A federal judge this week ruled that clicking the 'like' button was not protected by the first amendment but lawyers claim the bench now needs to be educated about social media as a form of communication and expression.
In Australia, Fair Work Australia upheld the firing of an employee of The Good Guys in North Queensland for posting an expletive peppered rant about a manager on his Facebook page on his day off using his home computer.
The employee lodged an unfair dismissal claim on the basis that he did not mention his employer by name and had applied the maximum privacy settings offered by Facebook.
In ruling against the unfair dismissal claim in mid-2011, Fair Work said 11 co-workers were able to view the post and that the former worker had engaged in serious misconduct.
In 2010, Coles sacked an Adelaide supermarket supervisor after she posted comments about a co-worker on a Facebook wall visible to others. The woman removed the comments but a colleague had already reported the matter to a manager who terminated the woman for breaching company policy. Six months of other posts were also viewed by management before it made its decision.
The Sunday Mail reported that Coles said its code of conduct stipulates that "team members must not make any disparaging or untruthful remarks about other team members.
There have been numerous other Facebook post firings in the US and also the UK. CareerOne has reported on this issue several times and our advice is:
• Use BeKnown to “friend” co-workers on Facebook. BeKnown allows you to create a professional network right on the Facebook platform that you can keep separate from your personal profile page.
• Use maximum privacy settings on your personal Facebook page.
• Don’t use the workplace computer system to update your Facebook page even via a personal device.
• Only use your Smart phone or Android to update your personal social media pages in your break.
• Don’t bad mouth colleagues or managers. If you’re angry, don’t post at all.
CareerOne.com.au, May 2012.