Examples of employers terminating employees for violating social media policies abound – as you can tell from our prior posts and the NLRB’s continuing interest in the topic. This week, however, Mr. Gene Morphis, chief financial officer for Francesca’s Holdings Corp., a Houston based fashion retailer, was “terminated for cause” as a result of posts on Facebook and Twitter. (In the corporate world, a termination for cause is NOT a good thing. It generally means that severance will not be paid to the executive, although we don’t know if that happened here.) Due to Mr. Morphis’ executive status, this termination adds a bit of a new twist to mishaps by employees on social media sites. We have not often heard about executives at this level losing a position for similar mistakes. So let’s look a little further into what he did that led to his demise.
The company, according to the Wall Street Journal, After Too Many Tweets, A CFO Is Out on the Street, fired Mr. Morphis because he “improperly communicated company information through social media.” Although Mr. Morphis mused about sports and life in general online, he also chose to discuss the company’s business affairs. He tweeted about the dynamics of board meetings, and posted comments on Facebook regarding investor calls, the release of earnings data and the sales of secondary stock. What was he thinking? It makes me wonder what the company’s social media policy says about posting company information on social media sites…
Yet, Mr. Morphis is certainly well schooled in the use of social media. He even writes a blog called “Morph’s View.” (In his blog, Mr. Morphis discusses the current financial condition of the federal government, and weighs in telling the reader about his 40 plus years of business experience.) So why was he, as an officer of a public corporation, so careless in his use of social media? Why do people who should know better post information online that should remain confidential?
Does anyone have a good answer? Maybe it is like a flame to a moth – the lure is just too great despite the threat of complete disaster. Maybe people think “it won’t happen to me”, or the internet is just too big to be policed, so “no one will care what I say”. In the end, imprudent posters learn the hard way.
So, are you able to resist the temptation? When was the last time you “scrubbed” your social media profiles? Are there pictures or posts that you might not want the world to see? Maybe it is time to look.