Social networking can have its benefits. It can also have its drawbacks. Consider the case of a woman in Switzerland who was fired for being on Facebook while she off of work sick. When I first read the teaser for the article, my first thought was, “That’s horrible. She has every right to surf the web and social network while off sick.” Then I read the article.
According to the news report, the woman told her employer that she could not work in front of a computer terminal and needed to be in the dark. Apparently, that did not prevent her from using her iPhone to update her Facebook status. While the employee felt the employer’s actions were an invasion of privacy, the employer felt this was an “abuse of trust.” That’s a nice way of saying you’re fired for lying, which is precisely what occurred.
Before the Internet, employees fibbed about being sick to catch a baseball game or to have a “mental health day.” Today, the same thing still occurs. The only different thing is the context has changed.
No, I’m not advocating that an employer terminate every employee that updates their Facebook status ortweets while off sick. The point here is that the employee appears to have lied about the reason for their being off. Even under these circumstances, any employer that is considering termination for this offense ought to give some thought to the following:
1. Was the nature of the illness such that some time resting may have resolved it. As anyone with Migraines knows, a couple of hours in the dark with your eyes closed can have tremendous results.
2. Is termination really necessary? Assuming the employee lied about this, is this a case where some other form of disciplinary action may have an educational effect? Sometimes in cases of this nature, employers will fire first and evaluate whether their treatment was consistent with past practice later. That can give rise to claims of bias in the termination process.
3. If termination is deemed the best approach, then has that decision been vetted by the appropriate decision makers?
Finally, employees remember that friends on social networking sites are a mix of friends, acquaintances, and people that have asked to be your friend that really don’t know you. That means what you say and do on a social networking site has the propensity to get back to those folks at work.
Just some thoughts,