Last week we wrote about a possible new trend where companies require their employees to avoid any online mention of the organization. And before that, we (and everyone else) explained why you need to be careful about your online behavior and how you can keep your reputation professional. Even if you blog or post on Twitter at home, your words are open for everyone — including employers past, present and future — to see.
You know this. We know this. Hopefully everyone on any social media site understands this.
However, a social media misstep in Wisconsin has raised some questions about the definition of acceptable online behavior. According to Courthouse News Service, a police and fire department dispatcher posted a joke about being addicted to illegal and prescription drugs on her Facebook page. After the comment she wrote “ha,” indicating it was a joke. The city didn’t find it funny and fired her, even though her drug test proved she didn’t actually take these substances. A city arbitrator said the city needed to allow her back after a 30-day suspension.
According to the city:
“Making stupid jokes on Facebook where the line between public and private communications is admittedly blurred, calls into question that good judgment and common sense of the grievant and her resulting ability to perform her job.”
The arbitrator acknowledges the dispatcher didn’t use her best judgment, but doesn’t think she should be fired. The city persists that she is damaging to their brand.
Now, we’ve heard of people getting fired for many things. Heck, even the SF Weekly blogpoints out that there’s a Facebook page where people post news stories about employees fired due to bad online behavior. (Granted, a Facebook page exists for everything these days, its mere existence isn’t shocking.) But normally termination comes from obvious blunders, such as divulging confidential information, posting inappropriate pictures or badmouthing the company. But now it’s happening due to jokes that are obviously jokes. Think of it as Getting Fired 2.0.
But it still raises some new questions:
- Would this issue even be in question if it was directed at a person via an offensive comment? After all, offensive jokes are obviously jokes, but they’re still unacceptable and lead to noncontroversial firings all the time.
- Will this situation affect how you behave online, even on your own time?
- Could employees and employers avoid these situations if they started using the social media contracts we discussed last year? Or do you think that’s just setting everyone up for too many rules and regulations and ruining social media?
Let us know about your thoughts on the situation and if you’ve encountered anything like this.