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Facebook can’t get you fired

New rulings say your boss can’t dismiss you for talking trash, online or off.

By Rich_Maloof Jan 23, 2013 5:26PM

Job seekers have already heard any number of nightmare stories about people who learned a hard lesson in the age of social media. Companies visit social sites to check out potential candidates, and if you’re the one asking to be hired, you don’t want your named tagged in Facebook photo of you dancing drunkenly on a bar in a bikini (especially if you’re a guy).

Photo: RunPhoto/Getty ImagesThat’s a deal-breaker for someone knocking on a company’s door looking for work. Once on the inside, employees find large and small businesses alike very protective of their own online reputations. The web has proven to be a great equalizer, for better and for worse, and all it takes is a few discouraging words or downturned thumbs to scare away customers or tarnish a carefully crafted corporate identity.

Employee manuals commonly include strict rules about what can and can’t be said online, even from private accounts — with a threat of terminating the employee for violating policy.

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No can do, says the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB, first formed to protect unions, says workers have the same right to discuss work on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks as they do at the water cooler. Barring a breach of confidentiality, employers cannot fire you for talking trash online.

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Specific guidelines are yet to be determined, but recent rulings and advisories by labor regulators have made blanket restrictions on disparaging comments about managers, co-workers, or a company illegal, according to a report in The New York Times. The NLRB has even ordered the reinstatement of some workers previously fired for such violations.

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The new rulings will reshape the social-media policies of companies in the private sector. As the Times notes, the new employee protections come at a time when schools, universities, government agencies, and corporations are debating what constitutes appropriate online discussion.

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Photo: RunPhoto/Getty Images

60Comments
Jan 23, 2013 7:22PM
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In a lot of work places, an employee may be terminated for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all, so long as the reason is not discriminatory.  Promotions and pay increases are also under the supervision of ownership/management.

If anyone seriously thinks that there is any real protection against adverse consequences arising from unwelcome remarks, they are mistaken.

Jan 23, 2013 7:22PM
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Crazy times we all live in ...this way finding a job is going to be virtually impossible .
Jan 23, 2013 7:06PM
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Amanda,

Thats true, however, I guarantee you if you as the employer don't have relevant documentation as to why they fired you, you can kiss a great deal of money away.  So "at will" is good terminology, but doesn't hold up very well in court.

Jan 23, 2013 7:03PM
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First off, the company has no right whatsoever to ask anybody for their facebook account information. That is equivalent to asking to see their cell phones so they can see who all they socialize with and that is a violation of the fourth amendment. You cannot legally ask somebody for private information that has absolutely nothing to do with their job.  Legally speaking your employer is not even supposed to have access to pivate information like that. That includes your personal email also. You are supposed to have a work-related email address if you need email to receive work-related assignments.

I heard about this last year and it pissed me off because companies are going entirely too far. Some things are private and should remain that way. It is none of my employers business what I do after hours in my own private time. My employer should only be concerned about what I am doing while I am on the clock.

They are only doing this to keep track of their employees activities and to see what they do when they are not at work, which in my opinion is none of their business.

My employer would not have my facebook account information nor my personal email account, is not needed for work. That is final. If I was terminated because I refused to give them my personal information, I would sue the company. Thats all I have to say.

Jan 23, 2013 7:02PM
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fb is nothing but a gossip fence! Don't post nothing to come back to haunt you.
Jan 23, 2013 7:02PM
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You can be fired at any time from any job where you work for someone else.  They can always find a reason.  I would prefer to know the real reason so I did not do it again.
Jan 23, 2013 6:58PM
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If it was me doing the checking and I found an employee doing nothing but bashing the workplace I would be sure to find a way to facilitate a means to help their stress levels by firing them for something miniscule and really giving them something to complain about. Lesson being quit crying about the job you have. As for complaining about co-workers at a personal level....... some people just suck and you are bound to run into these people from time to time even at work. Suck it up and deal with them face to face and not talk about them behind their back. Take a second and think about how that makes you look as a person when you do.
Jan 23, 2013 6:52PM
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there won't be any jobs left to get fired from the way the economy is going these days anyway
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