By Monica Goyal
Under normal circumstances, it’s unlikely that these comments will travel back to your superior and result in your dismissal. However, if you make your feelings known on a popular social networking site such as Facebook, it’s an entirely different story.
As two car dealership employees in British Columbia discovered last week, posting derogatory comments about your employer could get you fired.
The comments they had posted were said to be extreme, they were offensive and violent, such as stabbing someone in the face fifteen or sixteen times.
It just so happened that these employees had their co-workers and manager listed as friends on Facebook, giving them full access to all of their comments. In an effort to overturn the decision, the employees’ union unsuccessfully filed a complaint with the BC Labour Board.
So, what does all this mean to you?
It means that comments made on Facebook, even if off site and during non-work hours, can become a basis for dismissal.
Presently, worldwide, there are a growing number of similar cases involving people who have been fired from their jobs as a result of posting negative comments onto their Facebook profiles. In the UK, there are several cases, such as the interesting story where Virgin Airlines fired 13 cabin crew members for posting critical messages about passengers, referring to them as “chavs”, and alleging that the aircraft was full of cockroaches.
In many cases, people befriend co-workers and supervisors on Facebook, and if you own a business, clients might ask to be your friend. In either scenario, you never know who is reading what you post.
As businesses becomes more web savvy, companies are using the Internet to brand themselves, and what their employees say and do online is a reflection of their reputation. Additionally, companies use the Internet to research potential employees, so one’s online presence might make or break the likelihood of being hired.
Can you still be yourself online? How careful do you need to be? Do you have the freedom to post what you want about your employer?
Here are three things to consider before you vent:
- Watch what you say online. Your online reputation travels with you, and is accessible by any employer from anywhere in the world. Not only should you watch what you say, but also the comments you make, tweets, blogs, photos, and videos you post. That sexy photo of your Halloween cat costume may not help you get that position you might apply for in the future.
- Learn about Facebook’s Privacy Settings and ensure that you utilize them. You can control what information you share and who ends up seeing it. If you find the settings too confusing, you aren’t alone. You can verify whether your Privacy settings are working with YourOpenBook.org that makes it easy to verify which Facebook status updates are public and visible to the world.
- Does your company have an Internet Policy? Written or otherwise, all companies have an opinion about the Internet and what is an appropriate message to convey by an employee. While some companies encourage their employees to network and make use of Twitter, personal blogs, and generally use the Internet, others wish to keep it under lock and key, thereby controlling their brand and their presence. As such, your midnight blogging or Facebook status updates might not be appreciated.
And while this new legal frontier is being explored with respect to Facebook and other social networking sites and their impact on employment, you might want to play it safe with whatever you choose to post. If you do decide to type up your feelings on your blog or a social networking site like Facebook, think twice before clicking the “comment” button.
Sometimes it’s a better idea to vent to friends over a cup of coffee.
Monica Goyal is a legal technology entrepreneur and the founder of My Legal Briefcase. After graduating from her undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo, where she was a Dean’s List Scholar, Monica attended Stanford University where she earned her Masters in Electrical Engineering. Monica also holds a law degree from the University of Toronto. She developed My Legal Briefcase to empower individuals going to Small Claims Court.