November 12th, 2010

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Can Using Facebook Get You Fired?

Well, the answer isn’t so clear cut. The NLRB backed a worker fired for Facebook posts that ripped on her supervisor. The National Labor Relations Board declared that Facebook posts and comments are legally protected speech in the sense that it’s similar to water cooler conversations between employees.

Even though the National Labor Relations Board has chosen its side, the case remains to be decided by a judge in January or the two parties can still settle out of court. If a ruling happens, the ruling could set precedence but can also be seen as fairly circumstantial. The employee was fired for online comments made on her own time using her own computer.

In a general sense, there could be many other factors to possibly take into account when dealing with whether or not if Facebook posts/comments are under protected status, such as:

  • Privacy settings on Facebook, e.g. who can view the posts, etc…
  • Whether or not if a personal Facebook account constitutes a public forum
  • The subject matter
  • The nature in which the post/comment is made

On a somewhat related note, a Cisco study shows that 2/3 of employees think employers should allow them to access social media during work hours. This study seems to add more questions to the dilemma. When using company time to conduct social media activities, would NLRB’s declaration still apply?

So, what do you think? Should employers allow employees to use social media during work hours? And if so, should an employer be allowed to set social media policies? Or should your personal social networks be protected from employer backlash?

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