14 March, 2011

Intern Sweatshop: Fired- Up Over Social Media

Everything that you do promotes the brand “You” whether or not that you are aware of it.

How you dress, the language you use, the ways in which you behave online and the things you post on social media sites all play a part in this self-branding. People today are very quick to post their most intimate feelings, rants, and gripes on Facebook and Twitter.

To me it is just common sense that you shouldn’t put everything out there, because it then becomes available for anyone to read. This of course includes employers.

You’ve probably heard some kind of story of this sort by now: Employee posts something on their Facebook page complaining about their boss or company, and then they get fired. Not the smartest thing to do, right? This issue remains up for debate after a recent federal court case.

Recently, Dawnmarie Souza, who worked at a Connecticut ambulance company, believed she was let go due to her critical comments about her boss that she posted on Facebook. Although, American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., claimed they fired her because of grievances about work.

She should have been more aware of how she is perceived via her Facebook page, and familiar with who was reading her posts. Employers might actually need to teach social media awareness because of the ever-fading line of our personal and professional lives.

Feeling she was unjustly fired, Souza contacted the National Labor Relations Board who filed a lawsuit her on the grounds that her comments were protected speech under federal labor laws.

When the dust settled and the unsavory Facebook updates surfaced, the matter was settled for an undisclosed amount. The Connecticut Company’s Internet and blogging policy restricted its workers from making comments about their managers or work, which was changed under the settlement with the labor board.

This case is poised to test new grounds in labor laws and companies setting legal limits on their employee’s social media usage. What exactly should be allowed? How far can free speech protect?

Freedom is speech is a powerful tool, but it can’t save you from everything.

Employers now check social media sites before hiring any employees. People judge others all of the time and a good way to get judged is to have obscene drunk pphotos, complaints, and uncouth comments on your social media site. A person could be a great employee, but still have terrible social media content. People need to get educated about social media usage.

Since this is still such a grey area, I think employers should get their staff to sign a code of conduct, instead of trying to restrict actual postings on social media sites. This case doesn’t give free-reign to writing whatever you wish on social media sites, because there can still be consequences.

If you’re not trying to get fired or go to court over your posts, then you better play it safe and stay away from referring to your boss as “Mr. Myfacesucks” unless that’s his name of course.

The bottom line is millions of people use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. There aren’t strict laws yet about what content is allowed on these sites about our places of employment, but this is a step in that direction.

Awareness about how you are perceived is something that is very important to examine in the workplace. Get educated about social media usage, and use some common sense.

Last time at the Intern Sweatshop, Josh Just Checked In At...

Rob Devereux, Account Services Intern/Avoiding Getting Trumped

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