“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” So goes the counsel of the wise King Solomon. Nevertheless, it’s simply human nature to suffer slips of the tongue and run afoul of that ancient proverb. But when it comes to social media, I wonder if ole King Sol would be so understanding.
Consider the time it takes a thought to make its way from grey matter, through the fingers, and past the send button. Despite that temporal expanse, social media scribes often turn out the lights or simply ignore the possibility their nuggets might reach further into cyber space than the narrow audience defined by their social media settings.
In my Social Media On-the-Job series we’ve discussed:
Today we’ll consider some cases where employees learned the hard way that employers are watching what you say in social media.
From the annals of “What Were They Thinking”
For instance, there’s the case of Justine Sacco, a public relations executive with IAC – a huge media and internet company responsible for sites like Vimeo, About.com, Ask.com, and Match.com, to name a few. Seems Ms. Sacco may have gotten a bit too “excited” just before boarding her flight when she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Before her plane even touched down, Ms. Sacco’s insensitive tweet had gone viral and she was … well saccoed.
Out of Texas there’s the case of a waitress whose Facebook post about bad tippers didn’t need to go beyond her circle of friends to cost her a job. Her first mistake was calling a cheapskate customer an “A**hole” on Facebook. Her next mistake was forgetting the “A**hole” customer was one of her Facebook friends who promptly showed the unkind post to the restaurant manager where she worked. No doubt she unfriended the “A**hole” after that.
While hockey’s violent reputation cannot be denied, a Canadian coach learned there’s no place for Nazism in Vancouver’s youth hockey leagues. Christopher Maximilian Sandau, a coach of 6-9 year olds, displayed Nazi propaganda and images on his Facebook page of Adolph Hitler with the message, “Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told,” and a swastika flag with the message: “If this flag offends you, you need a history lesson”. His refusal to remove them cost him a coaching job. Check into the boards!
Needless to say, threats will certainly get you noticed … and possibly fired; especially if you’re in law enforcement. In Ohio, a parole officer making a threat to “shoot them all” on Facebook wound up going through a series of psychological exams to determine her fitness for the job. Then, while on medical leave she threatened a co-worker who happened to be dating her ex. Unfortunately for her, probation was not an option and she was fired because of the threats.
Chalk up to just plain stupidity the case of the cook who posted topless pictures of himself on top of the grill at the Chili’s restaurant where he worked. Check them out here if you dare. (Ummm eww!) While he may have thought his poses worthy of the “Sexy Cooks of Chili’s” calendar, his bare-chested, tattoo laden, nipple pierced photos received a chilly response from state health department officials and his employer. Not surprisingly, he soon found himself chillin’ on the unemployment line.
When it comes to social media, stupidity is not reserved to the stupid. Michael Maggio, an Arkansas trial judge learned that anonymity on social media is not so anonymous. Going by the handle Geauxjudge, Maggio posted a number of sexist rants including these not-so-judicial gems:
Men have two needs. Feed me and f*<k me. Take care of both we will be good. Whichever one you don’t then the man will find.
Women look at 2 bulges on a man, one in the front of the pants or second one in the back pocket. Whichever one is bigger they can do without the other.
One major problem for Mr. Maggio was the fact his posts demonstrate a bias against women which creates a problem in the divorce cases over which he presided. If that weren’t enough, he disclosed confidential information concerning the adoption proceedings of actress Charlize Theron.
The Arkansas Supreme Court issued an order removing Maggio from the bench and barring him from holding any judicial office.
Finally, just before going to press, comes this jewel. An affirmative action officer responsible for investigating complaints of job discrimination in a Long Island, New York jail, shared these tidbits on his Facebook page: “Police are protected by a system of white supremacy”; “Dis not your country pale face” and “Racist NYPD CRACKERS”. He now finds himself on the receiving end of a discrimination complaint filed by the union representing the jail’s corrections officers. Oh, did I mention his name is Andreaus Guilty.
Please Think Before You Post
In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I, pretending to be dead on the battlefield, Falstaff rationalizes, “The better part of Valor, is Discretion; in the which better part, I have saved my life”.
While playing dead in social media defeats its very purpose, the cowardly Falstaff does teach that caution, in the heat of battle, may sometimes be prudent.
So before you send off that next post, tweet, share or picture, take a moment to consider what you’re saying and who might hear it.
What do you think of these stories? Do you know of anyone who lost a job because of social media?
Please share your comments or questions below.
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About the Author: Ralph A. Somma Ralph A. Somma is an experienced employment lawyer from Long Island, New York. For over 25 years, Ralph has been working to enforce workplace rights in New York and Long Island.