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Can You Be Fired For What You Tweet?

Can You Be Fired For What You Tweet?

Careful what you tweet—it could get you canned. At least that’s what’s apparent from the latest clash between corporate employers and their employees who use Twitter and Facebook to voice their thoughts and opinions. After tweeting that she was “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot,” Octavia Nasr was fired from her position as a senior editor at CNN. Fadlallah, one of the spiritual leaders of Hezbollah, is widely regarded in the U.S. (particularly by the government) as a terrorist. Not wanting to be associated with a terrorist sympathizer, CNN acted swiftly in their decision to terminate Nasr, who later expressed regret over her attempt to address such a complex issue in a forum that demands brevity by design, such as Twitter. Nasr later clarified that she was referring to Fadlallah’s “pioneering” positions on womens’ rights, rather than his terroristic tendencies. But by then, it was too late.
Another social media inspired firing that made headlines involved a somewhat less high profile position: that of a Pittsburgh Pirate’s pierogi mascot. The Pittsburgh Pirates have traditionally interspersed their baseball games at PNC Park with races between plush clad mascots dressed like European dumplings. One of the pierogi racers was initially fired from his position after posting disparaging remarks on his Facebook over the baseball team’s decision to extend the contracts of Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell. After much controversy, however, he was ultimately rehired, as his firing was apparently not in accordance with company policy.
Both of these cases raise an interesting question over company policy and social media. As a company with a brand and reputation to protect, it seems logical that an employer would ask employees to refrain from speaking ill of the company in public forums. But since social media is a relatively new development, many companies do not yet have policies regarding how employees should conduct themselves online when they are off the clock. In the case of the Pittsburgh pierogi, criticizing his employer did not constitute grounds for firing. But at CNN, it did. The potential damage that a renegade employee might inflict upon a company’s credibility is significant enough that companies should begin considering incorporating social media policies into their employment agreements. But for now, what you say on your personal Twitter or Facebook account may or may not get you into hot water with your employer.
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