In the latest incident of an employee’s social media activity landing him/herself in hot water with an employer, media outlets reported earlier this week that a young woman in Texas was fired before her first day on the job, after allegedly tweeting the following: “Ew, I start this f**k a**job tomorrow.”
The employee’s apparent disdain for her new position came to the attention of the business owner, who tweeted a zinging response: “And. . . . no you don’t start that FA job today! I just fired you! Good luck with your no money, no job life!”
Although this example comes from a US jurisdiction, it presents a reminder that is relevant on both sides of the border—i.e. an employee’s conduct on social media can lead to adverse consequences in employment.
The modern age of social media is one in which the traditional paradigms of private and public communication increasingly blur and overlap – sometimes inherently, and (apparently) sometimes inadvertently. Although an author may intend (or be under the mistaken impression), for example, that his/her postings on Twitter and Facebook are private, the nature of such media is that their contents are effectively displayed on “billboards” in cyberspace.
To continue the metaphor, should the wrong person (for example, one’s employer) drive past or be directed to such a billboard, negative consequences may well ensue.
The lesson in this case (and others like it) is that, as is so often repeated on television drama, “anything you say can and will be used against you.” In that regard, if an employer becomes aware of communications that disclose employee conduct or characteristics that are incompatible with ongoing employment, such as:
- overt disdain and disrespect for his/her job and/or employer;
- pronounced immaturity and lack of manners;and/or
- the poor judgment manifest in using a public Twitter account to insult his/ her new employer,
then the individual’s employment will quite naturally be at risk. (Although the question of whether or not “just cause” for termination exists will be a separate matter.)
That has been true since well before the advent of social media, and it will remain true going forward – regardless of whether the information in question comes to the employer’s attention directly, or via a metaphorical “little bird” that “tweet, tweets” (or, to use the modern vernacular, “re-tweets”) the information into the employer’s ear.