Sunday, June 20, 2010


Charlie Seng, a reader from Lancaster, S.C., sent me a front-page article from The Charlotte Observer about a waitress who lost her job for having posted disparaging comments on Facebook about a customer who left her a lousy tip. Seng wonders what the readers of the column think of a dismissal based on postings on an employee's personal Facebook page.

Good question. What do you think? Is it fair for a company to fire an employee for online comments that might reflect ill on the company? Or does the fact that it's a personal page make it none of the company's business?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the poll with this question that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

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Bob Coffield said...


As a health care lawyer who has actively been watching and involved in the ways that social media is impacting the health care industry and all other businesses, employment related legal issues involving social media situations are on the rise. Your post/story of a person being fired for their Facebook post is just another example. Another recent example in the health care context involved the discharge of hospital employees in California for discussing patient information on Facebook:

Although I am not an employment law specialist I would point out that there are some state laws that restrict the right of the employer to discharge an employee for comments made outside the employment setting. There are also NLRB protections for certain union activities, including organizing and other protected activities. Another area to watch is the right (and risks) of employers doing pre-employment screenings of potential employees social networking activities.

Social media has further blurred the work/personal lives of persons and we will continue to see the development of requirements/laws that try to define the boundaries of proper behavior. Many of these issues are no different than before -- for example the same waitress could have made negative comments about a customer to an important customer of the pizza place who then relates this back to the owner. However, the context has changed because of the "networking effect" of social media tools.

I look forward to seeing your comments and thoughts on the ethical issues involved.

Bill Jacobson said...

Does it really surprise this waitress that disparaging her company's customers - the very people who pay her paycheck - publicly no less - could lose her her job? Let this be a wakeup lesson. You are employed at-will... as soon as you start working against the company's interests then you tip the balance towards them being better off without you. I hope the comment was worth the hassle, especially considering the current job market.

It's her job to wait on the customers. If her employer keeps her there beyond her scheduled shift to take care of customers who choose to make a social gathering of their meal, then so be it... that IS part of the experience they're selling. Keep your rants private... your lot COULD be worse and you may well make it so.

Bill Jacobson
Cypress, CA

ECS said...

OK, I agree what she did was ill advised. And we don't know if she was actually a good waitress ir they were just looking for the first possible excuse to ditch her. (That happens.)
But IMHO is f she WAS a good employee who used bad judgment one time, the appropriate response by a wise employer would be to have her post an appropriate apology. If she is a nice lady, customers who know eh may now stay AWAY from Brixx!!!

Anonymous said...

This just happened in Pittsburgh - one of the guys who dresses up like a pieroghi and races around the field made a comment on his facebook page about the Pirates, and was fired. Even though no one really knows who is inside those costumes, and even though the Pirates really are quite bad yet again this year. I didn't really think it was a terrible comment, but I certainly think twice about anything I put on my facebook now.

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