Sunday, July 25, 2010


The Charlotte Observer recently featured an article about a waitress who had lost her job for having used Facebook to post disparaging comments about a customer who left her a lousy tip. Of the readers who responded to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 67 percent believe it fair for a company to fire an employee for online comments that might reflect ill on the company, while 32 percent believe that, because it's a personal page, it's none of the company's business.

"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," writes Bob Coffield, a health-care lawyer in West Virginia. "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."

"Let this be a wake-up lesson," writes Bill Jacobson of Cypress, Calif. "You are employed at-will ... As soon as you start working against the company's interests, then you tip the balance toward them being better off without you."

"I agree that what she did was ill advised," another reader writes. "But, if 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."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.

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.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," New York Times Syndicate, 630 Eighth Ave., 5th floor, New York, N.Y. 10018.

c.2010 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A comment she made to a co-worker who could be trusted not to repeat the comment is a personal comment.

A comment posted on the internet is not personal.

When will people learn that posting something on the internet is the equivalent of broadcasting it on television or radio? It's neither personal nor private.