Social Networking Can Get You Fired

Social Networking Can Get You Fired

Article by Shalanda Ballard

Social networking has exploded in recent years. Virtually everyone (even your employer) engages in some sort of social networking activity. Employers use social networking websites to learn more about their job applicants, employees, and the individuals who sue them. As social networking has increased so has the number of employees terminated for their social networking activities.

Two employees sued their former employer in New Jersey federal court earlier this year after they were fired for their MySpace activities. Brian Pietrylo and Doreen Marino created a MySpace forum to vent, complain, and make fun of their employer and supervisors. Management learned about the forum and terminated Pietrylo’s and Marino’s employment for violating the company’s professionalism policy. The Pietrylo case raised the question of whether an employer can terminate an employee for private statements made on a social networking website. Unfortunately, the Pietrylo case did not answer that question, leaving employees to wonder what social networking activities can result in termination. While there is not much clarity in this area, you should be aware of the following if you engage in social networking activities:

* You should not say or do anything in your social networking activities that you do not want public. You must realize that nothing on the internet is private. That is true even if your profile is set to private. For instance, I worked on a case where the plaintiff told his Facebook friends to lie to the EEOC and say that he was terminated because of his race. The plaintiff’s page was set to private leading him to believe that his communications were private. They were not. The EEOC dismissed the case when it saw the plaintiff’s Facebook page. You should not say or do anything that you do not want to be publicly available, because your information or communications can be accessed by current or potential employers, coworkers, recruitment agencies, government and law enforcement agencies, among others.

* You should assume that your employer is monitoring your social networking activities. It would be extremely difficult (if not, impossible) for an employer to monitor the social networking activities of all its employees. However, operating under the assumption that your employer is monitoring your activities will help you to avoid behavior that could get you fired. That tip may have saved a National Suisse employee’s job. Earlier this year, a National Suisse employee told her manager that she had a migraine headache that prevented her from using her computer. National Suisse allowed the woman to take a sick day to recuperate. Once home, the woman logged on to Facebook. National Suisse terminated the employee claiming that her behavior destroyed its trust because her Facebook activity unequivocally showed that she could use a computer. You should not make any comments, post any pictures, or engage in behavior that you do not want known by your manager.

* You should monitor what people put on your social networking page and say about you on the internet. The internet’s lawlessness has caused some to equate it with the wild west. The internet is lawless. You may conduct yourself flawlessly on the internet and still be harmed by a comment someone else makes on your page or a picture of you someone else posts. A forklift driver was terminated when his managers saw a video on YouTube of his at-work forklift stunts which included performing burnouts, wheelies, and crashing into stacks of pipes. The video was not posted by the forklift driver. It was posted by a coworker who filmed the stunts and thought they were “cool.” You should conduct regular internet searches to see what information is available about you. You should have negative or derogatory information removed.

* You should not disclose confidential company information. Employers terminate employees who disclose confidential company information on social networking websites. Last month, Barneys’ caf

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