The story described in this report in today's Insurance Journal will probably become more common. Employer upsets employee; employee (foolishly) vents frustration on Facebook or some other Web site for the whole world to see; employee upsets employer; employer bids farewell to employee.
People have griped about their employers since the guy overseeing construction of the Great Pyramids said, "Get back to work, ye lazy (fill in the blank)." The difference now is that you can leave a permanent record of your venting before you've had a chance to cool off and ask yourself, "Gee, should I really have written that?" This is never really a wise thing to do, particularly with an official unemployment rate hovering just below 10 percent and the unofficial rate plus the underemployment rate considerably higher.
However, some employees will cry foul when they get dismissed over something they wrote on Facebook, sometimes with justification, and attorneys are ready, willing and able to take on the fight. This is reason #146 why firms large and small need employment practices liability insurance. The most benevolent of employers still have the real possibility of a summons requesting significant amounts of money for a former (or current) employee who feels he has been wronged. Nine out of ten of the firm's supervisors may be sweethearts, but that tenth one may be the dictionary definition of a jerk and may take personally a Facebook post made in both jest and poor judgment. That's the person who will land the company in court.
Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, forums, etal., give people a false sense of anonymity; they're fooling themselves. I've read multiple reports lately of employers using Facebook as an applicant screening tool. I don't necessarily agree with using it that way (let he who does not have at least one embarrassing photo from his college days cast the first virtual stone), but it's happening. Now employers can just as easily track what their minions are saying on their "personal" Facebook pages. How they react just might win them some quality attorney time.
Have you had this conversation with any of your clients? What was the result? Spin your tales in the comments. I'm closing up the Geek Cave for the weekend. Enjoy!