This week, The Independent revealed that three police offers were fired in recent years for mouthing off on Facebook with "offensive, intimidating content," including racist and homophobic rants. In recent years, the media has repeatedly documented employees' actions on Facebook that led to a firing. A couple other examples: the woman who called her boss a scumbag in a posting, and the workers who 'planked' on a helicopter pad – during work hours.
In certain cases the firing feels justified (overt racism) but in others, not so much. In any case, common sense ought to guide the way employed (and unemployed!) people use Facebook. Because there's a specific lesson we can glean from each Facebook-related termination (such as – don't display your scrotum online), and because some folks might benefit form explicit rules, we're going to run through some of the dumb things that you shouldn't do if you'd like to keep your job.
To be sure, some online comments are considered protected speech, but the law hasn't evolved enough yet to clearly define the breadth of free speech on the interwebs. Basically, if you must vent on Facebook, only discuss issues like salary, benefits and conditions. Beyond that, all bets are off. Now join us for some useful examples or just to laugh at other people's poor decisions.
1. Don't blow up your own spot
Don't tell your employer you're home sick ... and then upload photos from a soccer game where you're giving thumbs up and a smiling. In the ensuing lawsuit, a court ruled the New Zealand man was justifiably canned. Hope his team won the game.
2. Don't expose your genitals on Facebook
A veteran British police inspector posted a picture of his genitals on Facebook. You just... don't do that! The man's firing was buttressed by findings that he sexually harassed some female workers. We presume the guy was recognized by his profile, not his genitals, but it sounds like it could have been either.
3. Don't blast your boss, particularly if he's your Facebook friend
This is the classic case of the dim-witted woman who wrote "OMG I HATE MY JOB!!" then called her boss a pervert and said he always asks her "to do s*** stuff just to p*** her off!!' We don't root for the boss (or company) necessarily, but the boss beautifully owned her here, which you can read in his response: .
4. Don't engage in name-calling
Meet the Connecticut ambulance worker who called her boss a "dick" and "scumbag" after a dispute at work. The company sent her packing for violating company Internet policy. However in a lawsuit that followed (trend alert), the woman settled with the company, which agreed to revise its policies so they do not "improperly restrict" employees from discussing their employment outside of work. The lesson is (we think) – sometimes it pays to call your boss a scumbag but it may take a while to reap the financial reward.
5. Don't bash ownership (even if you're right!)
Especially if you're one of the low ranking guys who run around PNC Park in a pierogi costume after the fifth inning of Pirates games. The 24-year-old wrote on Facebook, "Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates." Pretty tame stuff but ownership doesn't take kindly to public criticism from human pierogis.
6. Just don't bash ownership...
Here's a combination of failure to refrain from name-calling and ripping ownership: A Philadelphia Eagles employee who worked game days for 16 years was furious after the team dropped safety Brian Dawkins, and wrote on Facebook that he's, "[expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver... Dam Eagles R Retarted!! The guy got sacked a couple days later.
7. Don't plank on hospital equipment or helicopter pads and post the photos
In 2009, a number of hospital employees in England (including doctors) had a fun time planking (or "playing the lying down game" before it was called planking) on the hospital's helipad and resuscitation trolleys. That's a pretty comical way to pass time on the night shift but it got them all suspended for a period because they made the mistake of posting the shots on Facebook.
8. Don't post racist tirades (or equate that speech to a television network)
A juvenile corrections officer in Cleveland got fired for his racist tirade directed at the youths at the facility where he worked. Among other things, he wrote: "I f****** hate n******. They do not serve a purpose in life. Wait, they do keep law enforcement in business... they have B.E.T. and I have my voice." Nothing to add here.
9. Don't use Facebook when you're "home sick"
A few years ago, Swiss woman claimed she had a migraine and needed to lay in a dark room, only the company found she was messing around on Facebook and told her to stay home for good, believing they could no longer trust her.
10. Don't complain about a customer online
Do it at your own peril to share a greater moral lesson, but it may cost you a job. An Applebee's waitress in St. Louis posted a receipt upon which a pastor had written, "I give God 10%, why do you get 18?" Another waitress posted the receipt to Reddit with the line "I'm sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries." The whole thing blew up and the friendly neighborhood grill fired the waitress who posted citing concerns over the customer's privacy. The pastor later apologized. The takeaway is – the customer is always right, even when they're wrong.
11. Don't create an animated video depicting your colleagues
A firefighter and paramedic in South Carolina took his frustrations out about a doctor he believed was incompetent by casting him as a total moron in an Xtranormal animated video. The guy said he meant no harm but the department was furious and gave him the boot. The video would have been great therapy for the firefighter if he had only kept it private.
12. Don't send creepy messages to students
Or send them teddy bears, or try to get phone numbers, or leave comments on a student's photo such as "this is sexy," or send messages like "your boyfriend [did not] deserve a beautiful girl like you," That's a sampling of a few of the many Facebook-related misjudgments resulting in the firing of few New York City teachers a couple years ago. Oh, also, educators should avoid posting Facebook taglines such as: "I'm not a gynecologist, but I'll take a look inside."