As soon as Facebook use became ubiquitous, we started hearing about more and more people who have lost their jobs due to the service. There are plenty of stories, from those caught skipping work to attend a Halloween party, to those who just unloaded on their boss after a bad day. Although people tend to be careless, they are still entitled to voice their grievances to their co-workers and other people around them. That’s exactly what a Connecticut court ruled a few days ago, and that employers should not restrict their workers from talking about their jobs on social media sites.
So What is the Story?
In 2009 Souza, an American Medical Response of Connecticut worker, was fired from her job after posting an expletive-filled status message on her Facebook complaining about her supervisor and job. The National Labor Relations Board picked up her case and filed a complaint against the company and won it. The ruling was that employees have the right, and the protection of the government, to express their opinions about their jobs and working conditions on social media sites. This will surely change quite a few thing when it comes to corporate acceptable internet usage policies in the USA.
What Are the Consequences?
While the boundaries of that ruling will be tested in the future, the consequences could be wide-spread. In the past, it was popular for employers to include in their Internet usage policy a provision that restricts employees from making negative comments about the company or their bosses publicly. This was an accepted reality for employees ever since the rise of personal blogs but everything has changed.
Now that employees have an audience of millions on the web through their Facebook profiles and blogs, they will surely take advantage of it.
The reason companies are currently scrambling to find a loop hole in that ruling is because of the damage that might befall them if one of their employees decided to vent. While companies still retain their right to protect themselves against the disclosure of confidential matters and trade secrets, pretty much everything else is fair game for a social-media post. That will surely expand the responsibilities of the IT, PR, and/or marketing departments to include the role of firefighting PR disasters that might arise from pissed off employees. Also, it might cause companies to react by creating a disclosure form by which employees are expected to announce all their social media accounts to their employer, so that they can at least keep an eye on them.
Whatever the reaction will be, the genie is already out of the lamps and we expect to hear about more and more people going back to sue their employers that fired them after a blog post, status update or a measly 140 character tweet.
So what do you think of this ruling? Will employees still self censor their posts? Share with us your thoughts and comments below.