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Facebook, privacy, and your job

We've previously discussed the role of Facebook in wrongful termination cases and wrote about the case of a young man who was fired from his job at the Library of Congress after a Facebook post led his boss to discover his sexual orientation.

That man's claim of wrongful termination was recently rejected by a district court, which said that "liking" something on Facebook is not constitutionally protected free speech. This means that even though he was a government employee and would normally be protected from retaliation for political opinions, a Facebook "like" did not qualify for protection.

These kinds of cases are making an impression in courts around the country, as more employers and employees grapple with the boundaries between public and private conduct online.

Employment law experts are recommending that employers create a clear policy surrounding social media content, so that employees know what to expect. Sites like Facebook are often used as a personal communication tool for employees, but can lead to conflict at work when information about their coworkers or employer becomes public.

An employee at a children's hospital was fired recently for complaining about a coworker's annoying habit on Facebook and making a questionable comment about hurting that person. Regulators from the NLRB said that online complaints such as this one were not protected speech and that the termination was lawful.

What do you think - should employers be able to fire someone over a Facebook post? Or is it within your rights as a private citizen to do whatever you please when you're off the clock?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Your social-media posts could get you in hot water," Ruth Mantell, June 4, 2012

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