Your next employee orientation may include a reading of the Miranda rights as employers increasingly try to protect themselves from employee rants on social media. As employees have moved their conversations from the water cooler to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, a new era of privacy and liability concerns has emerged and what you say in the social media arena can and will be used against you—possibly in a court of law. People have always complained about their work, their bosses, their co-workers…you name it and there are complaints about it. What is different in the 21st century is that instead of the few folks in the lunchroom or your friends and family, you can share your opinion with millions around the world almost instantaneously. And that has a gotten some employees in serious trouble and sent employers back to the drawing board to update their workplace policies.
Here are just a few examples of the impact of social media in the 21st century workplace. The YouTube video of two Domino’s Pizza employees in North Carolina engaging in gross food preparation went viral in 2009 and it didn’t take long for the restaurant to scramble to recover. The employees were fired and charged with delivering prohibited foods. They insisted it was simply a prank and the food was not delivered to customers. While there have always been tales of gross acts in food preparation, the acts didn’t always find their way onto the Internet and into the hands of the employer.
A disgruntled ex-employee uploaded sensitive documents on a public site on the web. His former employer sued to have the documents removed from the site.
An employee ranted about her manager on Facebook (she forgot that he was one of her Facebook friends). He responded by terminating her—on Facebook.
A Connecticut woman was fired after she posted disparaging remarks about her boss on Facebook. She has taken her case to court in a first-of-its-kind legal case by federal authorities who say her comments are protected speech under labor laws. The National Labor Relations Board alleges that her employer illegally fired her after she criticized her supervisor on her personal Facebook page and then traded Facebook messages about the negative comments with other employees.
Over the last decade, employees have used the Internet to rant (and rave) about their employers and co-workers and one of the Internet trends that emerged involves so-called “rant sites” that let users air their grievances. There are several rant sites on the Internet where employees can anonymously post their opinions about work issues. One that I stumbled upon and found interesting is Telonu, (pronounced “tell on you”) a site that lets users evaluate employers anonymously as well as post rumors about upcoming layoffs.
Find out about your employer’s policy concerning the use of social media for griping about work on and off the job. Certain information may be off-limits and your gripes may not be as harmless as you think. So, if you have complaints about work or co-workers remember that media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have the capacity to instantly reach millions of users and what you say can and will be used against you.
You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?