Swiss Woman Terminated Over Facebook Status Update

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We have all probably heard about the California Pizza Kitchen employee who was terminated over his YouTube rant about the restaurant’s uniforms, or about the Delta flight attendant who was terminated for “inappropriate” photos of her and her co-workers in their Delta uniforms posted on her blog. By now, it isn’t big news that employees are losing their jobs, or that employers are taking actions, based on social media postings, blogs, Tweets or status updates.

In fact, according to a study by Proofpoint, an Internet security firm, of companies with 1,000 or more employees, 17 percent report having issues with employee’s use of social media. And, 8 percent of those companies report having actually dismissed someone for their behavior on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s double from last year, where just 4 percent reported having to fire someone over social media misuse.

Some other interesting findings from the study:

  • 15 percent have disciplined an employee for violating multimedia sharing / posting policies
  • 13 percent of US companies investigated an exposure event involving mobile or Web-based short message services
  • 17 percent disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies

But this was a new one on me. I found an article on the BBC website about a Swiss woman who was terminated in April this year after calling in sick with migraines. She told the company she needed to lie in a dark room to let the headache pass. But when her employer noticed that she had logged into her Facebook account that day, they terminated her.

The company alleges that if the woman was well enough to use Facebook, she was well enough to work at a computer. The woman defended herself by saying that she accessed the site from her iPhone while lying in bed, and accused the company of using a fake profile to spy on her.

This story certainly bring to the forefront employee privacy and employers’ surveillance of employees while they are off-duty, and on the clock. Private employees don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy while on the job, but when off the job, how much can their employers control of what they say and do and take legal action based on it? It is an area of law still in development, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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