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Author Topic: Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?  (Read 5076 times)

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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A friend of mine got in trouble at work today from her boss for a comment she posted on facebook about a photo of another employee. The comment was hardly malicious and went along the lines of "Way to ruin a photo" in reference to the employee in question putting up "bunny-ears" behind the intended subject of the photo.

What right does an employer have to censor this? A person should be free to make any bloody comment they like on photos taken by a friend on a non-work related forum. It's not like she got the photo blown up, printed out and stuck to the wall of the office with adjoining comment.

Seems some companies need a few lessons in freedom of speech. Here's a couple of good ones:

« Last Edit: 16/12/2008 14:10:00 by Madidus_Scientia »


 

Offline dentstudent

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Perhaps it's not the comment itself, but the fact that they were using FB in work time. There is something of a argument about this, in that some people see it as a waste of work time, whereas others see it as a method of networking and enhancing required communication skills. I personally don't think that there should be a ban. The governance of this sort of ruling would be very difficult and controversial. Similar things have happened in China, and this has been seen by some as an infringement on human rights.
 

Offline RD

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If the company was identifiable from the photo (e.g. uniforms badges signs) then the employer could argue that publishing the photo on Facebook (and any associated comment) was detrimental to the company's image.

Employment contracts usually have a clause about actions which "bring the company into disrepute" being a sacking offence, e.g.

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the clause stated that the employee would not take action or make any statements which could cause [employer] any embarrassment or humiliation or otherwise reflect negatively on [employer] or cause [employer] to be held in disrepute.
http://www.allbusiness.com/legal/3505857-1.html
« Last Edit: 16/12/2008 13:39:24 by RD »
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Nah, I don't think the comment was made in work time, it was over the weekend.

And RD, I guess that's reasonable to stop employees shouting about how evil their company is on the front page of the newspaper, even if the claims are untruthful, but since when is facebook official media like that? Anyone should be able to say anything they like on their own personal behalf.
 

Offline dentstudent

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How did the company find out?
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #5 on: 16/12/2008 14:12:35 »
An employee complained to the Human Resources manager. I didn't know that if I didn't like something someone said about me I could tell my boss and have him deal with it, I thought I had to deal with it all by myself!
 

Offline RD

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #6 on: 16/12/2008 14:26:06 »
Imagine a Facebook entry posted at the weekend ...

"Here's a photo of John extremely drunk late on Sunday night,
 he will still be drunk on Monday morning but as he works for XYZ-corporation no-one will notice his poor performance".

If the poster also works for XYZ-corporation you can see why they (and possibly John) could get the sack.

So yes you can say anything you like, but there can be negative consequences.
« Last Edit: 16/12/2008 14:30:15 by RD »
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #7 on: 16/12/2008 14:33:47 »
You may displease your employer as a negative consequence, but should they fairly be able to use that as a pretense for disciplinary action? The statement "but as he works for XYZ-corporation no-one will notice his poor performance" is opinion, the personal opinion of the poster. And why shouldn't the person be able to post their opinion on facebook?
 

Offline RD

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #8 on: 16/12/2008 15:11:49 »
Publishing the personal opinion (or joke*), that XYZ employees are drunk at work, could bring XYZ corporation into disrepute,
 so could justifiably cost the poster their job.

It is unrealistic to "bite the hand that feeds you" and still expect to be fed.


[ * Jokes can have disastrous financial consequences if said at the wrong place or time...

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Once king of retail jewellery, Ratner is best known for his ‘crap’ speech, made at the Institute of Directors conference in April 1991.
It triggered the demise of Ratners as a brand name and near bankruptcy for Ratner himself.
http://www.headlandconsultancy.com/default.aspx?page=archivednews    ]
« Last Edit: 16/12/2008 15:16:36 by RD »
 

blakestyger

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #9 on: 16/12/2008 15:14:14 »
He was right though.
 

Offline RD

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #10 on: 16/12/2008 15:19:32 »
I think Gerald was joking ...
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Gerald Ratner gained notoriety in 1991 when he claimed that his stores were "selling a pair of earrings for under a pound, which is cheaper than a prawn sandwich from Marks & Spencer", adding unhelpfully: "But, I have to say that the sandwich will probably last longer than the earrings."
http://www.independent.co.uk
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #11 on: 16/12/2008 15:49:48 »
I posted a "note" (little blog type thing) on my own facebook site which is pretty much the same as my first post. The friend mentioned is tagged on my note, so on her facebook site it now says "<person> has been tagged in a note by <me>" with a link to my little rant. So the staff and/or employer could see this, even if she said nothing of work herself. For the sake of drama what if I were to rant further on and on about how my friend has been telling me her company is the most terrible company ever and they sacrifice puppies every morning and some are in fact cannibals which prey mostly on newborns stolen from hospitals. What would they do then? She cannot be held responsible for what I'm saying, and they have no power over me since i'm not employed by them. Will companies start sueing for defamation over things said in blogs?
 

Offline RD

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #12 on: 16/12/2008 19:15:16 »
Will companies start sueing for defamation over things said in blogs?

If the statements are damaging their business then yes, e.g.

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The McDonald's Restaurants v Morris & Steel, colloquially the McLibel case, was a long-running English court action for libel filed by McDonald's Corporation against environmental activists Helen Steel and David Morris (often referred to as "The McLibel Two") over a pamphlet critical of the company. The original case, considered by some scholars to be a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), lasted seven years, making it the longest-running court action in English history.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McLibel_case


what if I were to rant further on and on about how my friend has been telling me her company is the most terrible company ever and they sacrifice puppies every morning and some are in fact cannibals which prey mostly on newborns stolen from hospitals. What would they do then? She cannot be held responsible for what I'm saying, and they have no power over me since i'm not employed by them.

If you publish your friend's untrue statements you are guilty of libel, and the company could sue you for every penny you have.
« Last Edit: 16/12/2008 19:21:01 by RD »
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #13 on: 17/12/2008 07:25:16 »
Are things said over facebook really publishing though? People have to specifically come to my web page to see the "slander", it's not the front page of the newspaper.
 

Offline BenV

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #14 on: 17/12/2008 08:52:05 »
I think it's quite likely that their lawyers would contact facebook and tell them to remove it, which facebook would most likely do.
 

Offline RD

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #15 on: 17/12/2008 14:15:25 »
Are things said over facebook really publishing though?
People have to specifically come to my web page to see the "slander", it's not the front page of the
newspaper.

Internet forums are in the public domain so are legally the same as newspapers and broadcast media.

[Facebook allegedly has ~100 million members, so has a greater audience than most newspapers and TV or radio stations]


A corporation would be unlikely to sue a blogger because of the bad publicity and expense involved, but legally they could.
« Last Edit: 17/12/2008 14:20:22 by RD »
 

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Should employers be able to censor an employee on facebook?
« Reply #15 on: 17/12/2008 14:15:25 »

 

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