Can The Boss Fire You For Badmouthing Him On Facebook?

boss fire employee Facebook postBy Kate Rogers

It's a given in the workplace, everyone at some time or other complains about the boss. But if your employees are blasting you on Facebook and Twitter, saying you are a bully, that you have bad B.O. or are overworking them, can you fire them?

It depends on what your worker says, and how he or she says it.

"Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers have the right to discuss their wages and conditions of employment. Such protected activity generally involves two or more employees acting together to improve working conditions. However, not all activity is protected. Griping or ranting by a single employee is not protected, and certain behaviors will cause even group activity to lose its protection," Tony Wagner, an NLRB spokesperson, told FOXBusiness.com in a statement.

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So employees shouldn't be commenting on Facebook about how boring your last meeting was, but are legally protected to air complaints online about working conditions, so long as it affects more than one person. Forbes reported large corporations such as Target and General Motors are crafting more detailed social media policies in their employee handbooks, to ensure workers don't trash their bosses on the Web.

But should small companies follow suit?

Larry Cary, partner at Cary Kane LLC, said smaller companies often don't have the time or resources needed to create detailed social media policies. They rely on general resources available to them and focus on the day-to-day operations. But across the country, employment lawsuits are popping up regarding what is said on the Internet, due to a culture of online "oversharers."

"Younger people who are growing up on social media treat it very differently than the people of my generation," Cary, 60, said. "They write things that are quite shocking and emotive without thinking it through. These lawsuits happen with great frequency."

Most employment policies are broad in scope, and the NLRB is concerned with written policies that are too broad and may limit an employee's freedom to speak their mind, regardless of the outlet, he said.

"America is a place where everyone walks around thinking they have rights as workers, even though they don't," Cary said. "From a social point of view, however, what's generally considered acceptable or not limits what employers do."

More: Misty Robertson: Fired For A Facebook Post About Her Sick Child?

Outside of a written contract or clause at public companies, employment is at-will, Cary said. If a small-business owner sees something unsavory written about themselves or their company online, they can call their workers in and talk with them about it. But whether or not you can take action and fire them is dependent on state law, he said. Depending how you word your complaints, you may be protected by the NLRB.

"For example, New York has a statute that prohibits employers for retaliating against employees for engaging in off-premise conduct," Cary said. "So if an employee supports a particular candidate for office, they can't get fired in New York. But there's nothing that prohibits an employer for retaliating against [a worker] over something on social media."


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12 Comments

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at6152

What I do or say outside of my employers walls.....is my business, regardless of whether it is about conditions or pay! It should not matter if I am addressing co-workers or my cousin who lives in another state / country. Facebook is a social medium to where people can express themselves and although I could care less that you just had a bagel ( and fell compelled to show me a picture - because apparently I have never seen a bagel ), you should have the opportunity and right to do so without any repercussions!!

February 17 2013 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas

I have always wondered if the people who post their work related problems had ever brought their concerns to management. Do they want a resolution to the problem or do they just like complaining? And in this age of electronics, do they not know that their every word would find its way back to someone who might find them offensive? Before I struck out on my own to start my business, I worked for companies where I had issues, but I always tried to discuss my unhappiness with the people who could do something about it. A couple of times after nothing was done, I simply gave my notice and moved on to another company. Didn't make a fuss and certainly didn't burn any bridges.

February 17 2013 at 8:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Thomas's comment
kate

You're talking about professionalism and maturity. That is often not part of the equation on social media.

February 17 2013 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
petpetdon

Remember that whatever you post on the internet has a way of going around the world in a second. If you bad mouth someone there will be a problem.

February 16 2013 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paddleman1928

if your boss sees that you have zero rapport with him/her then , yes you could and should be fired.No one wants a disgruntled employee around. Especially with all the office shootings taking place

February 16 2013 at 6:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gosoaring10

Remember, if you blab online EVERYBODY can see it. Libel and slander laws still exist.

February 16 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
George

lets be real they cant give that as an officia reason but they can always find another one. Hey blow the whistle on your employer doing wrong and watch how fast they find A reason to can you after the heat dies down.

February 16 2013 at 4:51 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Dennis

If it's work related. You need to address it at work or look for another job. Venting on a social site is not going to solve your problems at work. Once you finish venting at the end of the day, you're going to get up in the morning and punch the clock again. If you just got to vent on a social site, inbox your friends instead of posting to get an audience.

February 16 2013 at 4:01 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
troy

IMO -
1. Keep your work relations on LinkedIn.com and your personal relations on Facebook.
2. Never say anything on Facebook that you wouldn't say at a party while you are sober.

February 15 2013 at 4:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to troy's comment
petpetdon

Plus on FB no one really cares what you had for lunch or who you are hanging out with later. Really, NO ONE CARES.

February 16 2013 at 9:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to petpetdon's comment
kate

I know a 45 year old woman that tweets professional athletes, and she thinks they answer her. You say no one cares, and I say no one cares, but, sadly, there are enough people who do care to keep the whole system active.

February 17 2013 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
troy

Maybe an employe should keep the work relations on LinkedIn.com and not on Facebook for starters.

February 15 2013 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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