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Can A Facebook Posting Get You Fired?

Compliance Attorney, HNI

While the latest technology provides employers with many more options to screen applicants, monitor employee’s personal lives, and conduct a Google© search on anybody, the law has not kept pace.  For example, there are specific laws governing background checks and limitations on how that information may be used during the hiring process. Human Resource Professionals know what they can and cannot ask during an applicant interview.  But what rights does an employer have to use information they find on the internet about a job applicant or an existing employee?

On October 27th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut for firing an employee because she made disparaging remarkFacebooks on Facebook© when discussing her employer and supervisor.  The employee’s comments were posted from her home computer.  The NLRB’s investigation found in favor of the employee, stating that the employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity and that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions.   A hearing on the case is scheduled for January 25, 2011.

Facebook is just one example of technology that provides employers with access to information that would have not been available to them just a few years ago.  In one day, 175 million people log on to Facebook — imagine how much information is available on Facebook if each person posts just one comment a day.   But use of these new technologies can provide employers with access to information that they would not be able to ask an applicant or existing employee.  If your organization makes use of new technology like Facebook, HNI recommends that you review your policies and procedures to determine if they are putting your organization at risk.  


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