When Georgia-teacher Ashley Payne took a trip through Europe two years ago, she did what many travelers do. She went to a pub and had a drink. Of course, a picture was taken which then ended up on Facebook. Catching wind of the photo, an anonymous person claiming to be a concerned parent emailed the administration of Apalachee High School. The school is in Barrow County, located in northern Georgia.
What followed was a chain of events that resulted in Payne losing her job. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Payne asserts that she was forced to resign her job, which she did do. The school district has maintained that Payne left the job on her own volition. Regardless, she sued to be reinstated, arguing that she was entitled to a due process hearing. She also was seeking compensation for legal fees.
The case made it to the Superior Court of the Piedmont Circuit, where Chief Justice David Motes ruled in the school's favor this week. The ruling was not a surprise for Payne's counsel, given Georgia's outlook on resignations, which the state has historically been loath to classify as an involuntary termination, and therefore in need of judicial remedy, according to the Journal-Constitution.
A request placed by AOL Jobs to Payne and her legal representation, Richard Storrs, for an interview received no response.
According to another report, by local television outlet WSBS-TV, other challenges to the ruling are still being considered by the court. Regardless, the findings of the Piedmont Superior Court jibe with the latest precedents in the nascent labor law field relating to social media conduct. Just this past summer, as was reported on AOL Jobs, the presiding National Labor Relations Board released guidelines on what is and is not protected social media conduct for the nation's workers. And the basic outlines adheres to standard labor law codes; employees will continue to be protected for activities that are considered to be a "concerted activity" that seeks to improve working conditions. In citing a score of examples, the NLRB was generally willing to place the burden on the employee in demonstrating wrongful termination in cases that touched on conduct unrelated to actual work.
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