- When the post harms the business, impugns the integrity of its staff or business practices, or otherwise affects the reputation of the company in the community.
- When the post indicates that the poster lied to a superior.
- When the post raises legitimate doubts about the poster’s fitness for a job, either in the minds of potential client and customers, or in the judgment of employers.
- When the post is sufficiently disreputable and offensive to the community at large that it raises the question of whether any company that hires or has such an individual in a position of authority can or should be trusted.
- When the post shows poor judgement of such a degree that it reaches signature significance, and legitimately causes an employer to doubt the stability, sanity, or trustworthiness of the poster.
- When the opinion offered or conduct shown is so offensive to so many others that the company’s association with the Facebook poster necessarily degrades the image of that company.
- When the post discloses or violates a work-related confidence or secret, or embarrassing information relating to the company.
- When the post itself will make it more difficult for the Facebook poster to do a job, as when teachers post that they hate their students.
- When the post undermines personal and professional relationships in the office.
- When the post directly denigrates the company, its product or services, or its management
- When the post attacks a staff member, manager or officer by name.
- When the post violates a reasonable policy that the employee agreed to and was aware of.
- When the Facebook poster was previously warned about the kind of post involved, and the warning was reasonable and justifiable.
You will mark that I am assessing fairness only. Laws, regulations and unions will, in many cases, prevent firings that may be ethically justified. That disparity is due to misguided legislation, political power, lobbying and other factors that often leave ethics in the gutter. Any of the above, however, would make dismissal ethically justified.
When isn’t it fair for an employer to fire an employee based on a Facebook post? A fruitful place to begin that discussion might be with the now unemployed Amy McClenathan, who was fired from the title company she worked for because she wrote this on her Facebook page:
“I wish I could get fired some days, it would be easier to be at home than to have to go through this.’”
Yes, some sadistic creep thought it would drip with irony and humor if the company granted her wish, like in the Grimm’s fairy tale about the woodcutter who rashly wishes a string of sausages would attach itself to his wife’s nose. There is no excuse for this. Her comment doesn’t reflect badly on her or her company, and is the kind of random verbalized sigh that most normal people might be tempted to write every other day. Absent a lot of other black marks against her, there is no way such a comment on Facebook or being towed by the Goodyear blimp should have resulted in McClenathan losing her job, any more than…
- General expressions of fatigue, depression, discouragement, anxiety, boredom or burnout.
- General expressions of frustration with a workplace environment (“Sometimes my boss drives me crazy;” “I wish I could just roll over in bed and skip work today.”)
- Posts that express political, social, economic, religious or moral opinions or views that are contrary to those of management, but that do not undermine the ability of the individual to do his or her job or reflect badly on the organization itself.
- Posts that show the individual engaging in legal activities, such as drinking or smoking, that do not violate company policy or negatively affect the company’s image.
- Posts using vulgar or obscene terms without creating circumstance that trigger the forbidden conduct in the previous list.
- Obvious jokes that do not suggest clear bias, blatant sexism, racism, homophobia or other legally condemned prejudice and discrimination.
- Posts and comments by others not employed by the company.
- Posts showing that the employee engages in hobbies and other non-work related pursuits that do not by their nature undermine or conflict with job performance.
I detest social networking spying and outside authorities attempting to monitor private conduct. Social media, however, is often public conduct, and an employer, unlike a school with its students, has a legitimate interest in personal social networking posts that might affect the bottom line.
Amy McClenathan’s little expression of despair was not such a post.
Source and Spark: Az Family
Graphic: Yellow Brick Road