A woman who was fired over her post on her Facebook account is scheduled to have her case heard by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Tuesday.
Dawnemarie Souza, a former medical technician was fired on December 1, 2010 for a post where she used vulgar language to criticize her boss on Facebook after he denied one of her requests. Her post began a thread in which several co-workers made similar negative comments about the supervisor. Souza’s comments came from her private account on her own time and on her personal computer.
Souza’s employer American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc., a medical transportation company, argues that Souza’s comments constituted “online badmouthing,” which violates company policy. The NLRB feels that Souza’s postings were a “concerted activity,” and therefore are protected by employees’ rights to communicate with fellow employees to improve the workplace.
It seems that the lawsuit will be a lengthy battle over what employees can and cannot say online. This goes beyond Souza’s case and will likely have a substantial impact on the contents and enforcement of corporate social media policies in the future. So many of these policies approach the environment with a preventative lens, because companies can not afford to be reactionary.
“This is a perfect example of the law not keeping up with technology,” employment attorney Scott M. Peterson of Tully Rinckey PLLC observed. “I would expect this case will provide some guidance moving forward when it comes to social media and the workplace, but I don’t think the fight is anywhere near over.”
Companies are not talking with their employees. Companies need to lead with education not regulation. In effort to utilize social networking sites as a distribution channel businesses are only focusing on marketing and promotion and forgetting that employees are using it for personal conversation. The break room is in the public area now. Take the time to familiarize your employees with the seriousness of online privacy.
I would have to say that if this was done on her personal time, on her personal computer, although it reflects badly on the company, should not result in her being fired. The company should address their staff about the proper use of social media and introduce a way of dealing with conflict within the company. Surely, a reprimand would be warranted, the same way an individual would confront someone trash talking them on Facebook.
Firing her shows that the company doesn’t put enough effort into the well being of their employees, and the company. They should be more concerned that their employees feel the online environment is private. Many users have trouble keeping up with application changes that ultimately alter privacy settings thus it is important to lead with education.
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