Monday, September 20, 2010
Help Me Howard: Facebook
Ever heard of Facebook? You would have to be living on the moon to not know what it is with nearly 500 million people around the world staying in touch with their friends on Facebook. But can Facebook get you fired for what you post? It's why two South Florida girls called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Today, people talk to each other face to face, on the phone or on Facebook.
Noeilla Termilus: "All of my friends are on Facebook. Everyone goes to different schools, and this is how we communicate."
Facebook is a social networking site where people sound off and share their thoughts with their friends.
Altagrace Descollines: "When you log on to Facebook, it says, 'What's on your mind?'"
Noeilla and Altagrace work together at a fast-food restaurant, and when they aren't together, they stay together on Facebook.
Noeilla Termilus: "We always express ourselves on Facebook. Either if we're arguing with our parents, or if things went bad at school, or if you're home bored, watching TV. We always post stuff up."
A few days ago, Altagrace didn't like the way her boss acted at work, and when she got home, she told her friends on Facebook.
Altagrace Descollines: "And I put, 'I had the worst day ever at work.' And I put, 'Ugh.' And I put comma, comma, comma. 'Anyways, that (expletive) is played and old.'"
When Noeilla saw it, she commented.
Noeilla Termilus: "I said, 'Why do you let old, bitter people get to you.?'"
To read the comments on Facebook, you had to be friends with the girls. A co-worker was and she told their boss what they had said. Altagrace got the news first.
Altagrace Descollines: "'Because I seen what you wrote on Facebook, I'm going to have to let you go.'"
Noeilla was next.
Noeilla Termilus: "I got fired, because I commented on it."
Both girls fired. Both girls stunned.
Altagrace Descollines: "I was in shock. I was like, 'Are you serious?' You can speak your mind on Facebook. It's what's on your mind. I didn't know that you could get fired for saying what's on your mind."
Noeilla complained to the district manager.
Noeilla Termilus: "She was like, 'Well, if you go on the Internet and talk bad about your boss, how do you expect to keep your job?'"
The teenage girls said they never mentioned their boss' name, never said where they worked and never thought their thoughts to each other on their private Facebook page would get them in trouble.
Noeilla Termilus: "I thought our first amendment is freedom of speech."
Well Howard, the first amendment is freedom of speech, but can you exercise that speech on Facebook?
Howard Finkelstein: "You can exercise your right to say anything you want, but it doesn't protect you from the consequences. In other words, you have a right to call your boss a name on Facebook, face to face or on the phone, and they have a right to show you the door and fire you."
When we called a spokesperson for the fast food chain, they told us the corporation does have a social media policy, that employees can post whatever they want on their own time, but as an individual, and should not post as if they are a representative of the company. As for whether or not the girls' complaints about their boss violated company policy, we were told they could not discuss that, since it was a personnel matter.
Howard Finkelstein: "You may think these social networks are fun and private, but not always. For example, many employers check the Facebook page of prospective employees, and many lawyers check the Facebook page of witnesses who will be testifying against their client. Pictures you posted, words you wrote, could be used to hurt you."
The girls learned that the hard way. They had no idea their thoughts on Facebook could cost them their job. Now, they face finding another job.
Altagrace Descollines: "I'm a single mother and don't have nothing to my name, and I wanted to get a job so I could feed my child."
Patrick Fraser: "Now you may think your social network page or post is private, but in the girls' case, a friend let the boss read it. But even if she didn't, it could have been accessed. There are computer whizzes who can open anything from your private Facebook page to your checking account. If it's on the Internet, it's never truly safe."
Facing failure that has you fuming? Book a complaint with us. We aren't literary social whizzes, but we can write up a halfway decent legal post.