Can You Get Fired for Complaining About Your Job on Facebook?

Nov 11, 2011

It's not unlikely for news stories to focus on social media activities. Whether it's changes on Facebook or inappropriate Tweets from celebrities, social media has a major cultural impact. And on an individual level, social media can cause big problems as well. But a new legal finding may make some employees breathe easier when they complain about their jobs on Facebook.

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By Sarah Wright

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Complaining About Work on Facebook

Privacy and social media has been a hot topic in recent months. From former Congressman Anthony Weiner's now-infamous poor Twitter judgment to complaints about Facbeook's privacy standards, the media focus on social networking reveals how integral this technology has become in our lives. We now conduct a lot of personal business through social networks: dating, making social plans, announcing life changes like pregnancy and marriage, getting in touch with long lost school mates, making professional contacts and building off-hour friendships with coworkers.

This mixing of the personal and the professional might not seem like a big deal, but it can have some consequences. Think about what might happen if your boss or coworker were to see a Facebook post you made about how much you hate your job. As one group of workers recently found, though, harsh consequences for complaining about work on Facebook might not be entirely legal.

The National Labor Relations Board Finding

According to Forbes.com, a group of workers for Hispanics United of Buffalo, a non-profit organization, took to Facebook to complain about a coworker. The exchange was hardly erudite, including 'Tell her to come do my f***ing job n c if I don't do enough, this is just dum' and other semi-profane comments. The subject of those complaints saw them, and notified a supervisor, who then terminated the employment of the complaining workers.

But one of the workers took the case to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), where a judge found that the complaining employees were within their legal rights to complain. Though the complaints violated Hispanics United of Buffalo's policy against cyber bullying of employees, the NLRB judge found that it is legal for workers to discuss workplace conditions. The National Labor Relations Act gives workers in the U.S. the right to discuss improvement of work environment, justifying the NLRB decision.

Don't Go Overboard

Even though you may, in some instances, be legally protected from termination if you complain about your job on the Internet, it's still not a great idea to vent in such a public forum. Having a valid concern about workplace safety or working conditions is one thing, but calling people names or making personal attacks is another entirely. And though one judge found in favor of the terminated workers in Buffalo, another judge may not have had the same interpretation. Plus, you don't want to put yourself in the position of needing to bring a court case to save your job.

Remember that no matter how protected you think your social media accounts are, things you post on the Internet can always come back to haunt you. It's a good idea to be in the general habit of not posting incriminating or otherwise potentially damaging stuff to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. If you learn to keep your complaints private and personal, you'll be saving yourself a lot of trouble in the long run.

While venting online is fun, free online classes are probably a better use of your Internet time.

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