To fire or not to fire...
Last comment by Bull153 5 years, 4 months ago.

Take Me To Post Comment Form

...that IS the question.

Two recent events give pause to wonder how much one's use of social media could - and should - affect their employment. How much of what we say and post online should be used in making a decision to fire someone?

I think we can all agree on the basic premise that a person has the right to say whatever they want, but that freedom of speech is not unlimited. It isn't smart nor safe to yell "FIRE" inside a crowded theater when there is no fire, and it is certainly not prudent to stand in line to board an airplane talking about planting a bomb. There are even laws that prohibit speech that provokes a fistfight. Let's take a look at these two situations where Facebook posts cost two people their jobs.

In the first, following President Obama's re-election victory, a woman in Turlock posted "And another 4 years of the (N-word) maybe he will get assassinated this term..!!" I don't approve of her choice of words nor would I wish that anyone be assassinated, let alone our President - but it is her opinion and she is entitled to it. Her boss at Coldstone Creamery didn't agree, and fired her citing e-mail complaints he received from customers who were offended. The boss said her comments don't reflect the store's image. He also said this woman had never said anything derogatory or insulting at work, and he was surprised at her Facebook posting. Yet he still fired her.

Another woman was sent by her employer to Washington, DC on a business trip. While in Washington, this woman and a co-worker took in the sights, including Arlington National Cemetery. Near the Tomb of the Unknowns, probably the most hallowed ground at Arlington and under an honor guard's solemn watch 24 hours a day, this lady decided to have her picture taken. No big deal until you notice that the photo was taken right next to the 'Arlington National Cemetery - Silence and Respect' sign with our visitor emphatically extending her middle finger while acting like she is shouting at the top of her lungs. I like humor - I do - but some things just aren't satirical or funny... like this photo. The woman subsequently posted the offensive photo on her Facebook page, sparking an uproar that resulted in her employer suspending her and the photo taker without pay while they investigated. After a couple of days, the 30 year old woman and her friend who worked for an organization that assists the disabled - undoubtedly some who are veterans - quit their job before being fired.

I didn't appreciate the first woman's post and I disliked the second's photograph. If I had the opportunity I would say so to their face and tell them how offended I was by their actions. I would also have no problem confronting their bosses and telling them that these women should NOT lose their jobs. In the first case, this lady was not speaking in a capacity as an employee. Unlike a police officer who is subject to being on duty twenty-four hours a day and is held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, this lady has every right to express her opinion or act in a stupid manner without fear of repercussions. In the second, even though the employer paid for the trip, the employees were not participating in a job related function at the time the photo was taken. After the day's business or meetings were concluded, there is no reason why they shouldn't have enjoyed the opportunity to be tourists and see the sights. The photo doesn't identify the business and her actions don't reflect upon it.

One can certainly make an argument that both these situations were stupid. By now anyone with a computer and internet access has to understand that things that are posted online are open to the public. It isn't like sending a copy of a photo to a specific person by 'snail mail'. Even our blog discussions here are accessible across the country and around the world.

The more technologically advanced we become, the less common sense seems to be a factor. I wouldn't use the n-word around my friends, so I certainly wouldn't use it on Facebook. Is a lapse in good judgment while using social media cause to lose a job that feeds and clothes your loved ones? NO... emphatically no.

"In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity." - Konrad Adenauer

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." - Hanlon's Razor

- Ron

Latest Activity: Dec 05, 2012 at 8:36 PM

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crimeriddendump commented on Friday, Nov 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Hi Bull153,

First, as a suposed law-enforcement officer, I'm VERY SURPRISED that you were not aware that threatening the President of the United States is a class D felonious FEDERAL CRIME (United States Code Title 18, Section 871)! Odd that you are perfectly OK with a someone who - allegedly - committed a felony not being prosecuted for the crime.

Second, how do you know that someone else - much like you - could have just as easily ASSUMED the first women you mentioned WAS speaking for her company just as you ASSUME that she was not? It is a double edged sword and it cuts on both ends, bit just the one that you seem to care about.

Third, it is also a federal crime to produce or distribute "obscene material" on federal grounds or via interstate transmission (18 U.S.C. § 1460). While this is a much lesser crime. Again, odd that a suposed law enforcement officer would have such a relaxed position regarding law enforcement.

Bottom line in both these cases seem to be that an actual federal crime was committed. If I were the employeer of either of these women, I would fire them in a second to avoid my company - or assets of my company such as computer/communications equipment - being entangled in long legal proceedings.

KarenPearsall commented on Friday, Nov 23, 2012 at 22:16 PM

Hello Bull153, I think, in the first case, after the Facebook posting went wider than she probably intended, the young woman in question gave an interview to Fox 40 News and defended her statements and actions while WEARING her Cold Stone uniform. In the front page Modesto Bee article, she is also pictured in her work uniform. If her work place had never been brought up or identified, then people most likely would have judged her words and comments solely on their lack of merit. HOWEVER, once she let herself be clearly associated with her place of employment, she became a reflection of the company and her employer's hand was pretty much forced. I can see that her offensive words and the negative publicity that they generated could have definitely adversely affected Cold Stone if the company acted as if lines were not crossed and her behavior was acceptable or an accurate representation of the caliber of their employees. She said some thoughtless, insensitive things and never expressed remorse, only shock and confusion over the critical feedback ("What did I do wrong?"). She learned a tough lesson by having to lose her job. Common sense is not always automatic but is usually invaluable. Sincerely, Karen

Bull153 commented on Friday, Nov 23, 2012 at 22:49 PM

@ KarenPearsall...

I was not aware that she gave the interview to Fox40 News in her work uniform. The same goes for the Modesto Bee article photo. In the only photo I saw, she was sitting on a couch (perhaps at home) and not wearing a uniform.

I am curious if the Fox40 News team ambushed her at work and how the photo in her uniform was obtained by the Modesto Bee. Did her boss provide the photo? Did she try an avoid being interviewed and Fox40 News tracked her to her work? There should have be a distinction that she was expressing her personal views and not any views of her employer. She certainly could have told the news crew that she didn't wish to be interviewed right then and arranged a neutral location. Common sense would seem to have been eclipsed by more stupidity when you allow yourself to be interviewed on a controversial topic while wearing your employer provided uniform. 20-20 hindsight is an unforgiving thing.

Given the updated information, it is hard to fault the employer firing this lady. It is a truly tough lesson to learn. As a general rule, though, I still contend that unless one clearly violates a condition of employment, like wearing a uniform while expressing opinions contrary to company policy, losing one's job should not be the result of one exercising their free speech rights.

- Ron

crimeriddendump commented on Friday, Nov 23, 2012 at 23:13 PM

Again, odd that a supposed former law enforcement officer finds nothing wrong with the potential felonies committed by the two individuals in question. Further odd that he seems to be defending a hypothetical situation and ignoring the facts and reality of the matter.

KarenPearsall commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 00:18 AM

Hello Bull153, I watched the video clip of the interview (which I should have done, in the first place, before commenting) and for most of the time, the young woman is NOT wearing her Cold Stone uniform. There is ONE brief shot of her at work, dressed accordingly. I just wanted to correct some misinformation in my previous post. But I have seen the Modesto Bee picture. I don't know who was responsible for the pictures in uniform, but once those were out in public, I think Cold Stone management's options were few. Also, the more recent quotes (after all the negativity) show the young woman is finally backing off from some of her previous callous statements (that, while she wouldn't personally kill President Obama, she wouldn't really care if someone else did) and is insisting that she would not really want to see Obama, father of two young girls, dead. So maybe she did learn something about the power and responsibility of words from this unfortunate experience. I hope she turns her life and actions in a more positive direction. Sincerely, Karen

Bull153 commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 05:04 AM

@ KarenPearsall...

Thanks for the update. I'm glad the lady seems to finally 'get it' and realizes that her words and actions can have consequences.

- Ron

crimeriddendump commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 06:27 AM

Odd seeing as Bull153's point in the article was the words should NOT have consequences when you said "losing one's job should not be the result of one exercising their free speech rights."

Which one is it Bull153? Its easy to be right when one has zero problem taking all sides of an issue.

crimeriddendump commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 07:21 AM

Also, I find it odd that a TeaParty person would find fault with an employeer for firing an employee for any reason. Very progressive thinking there Bull153 in suggesting employees have the right to keep their jobs indefinitely so long as they follow the specific rules.

Again, odd that being interviewed by the Secret Service for possible assassination attempt seems perfectly OK with a supposed law enforcement officer. It must be nice to have scruples that bend to the current situation.

rozemist commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Along with freedom of speech and expression comes
responsibility and often consequences
Whether the first woman was in uniform or not (and frankly that would've of been a irresponsible move) is not the whole picture here her words were thoughtless,wreckless (words far less than that have been known to incite violence) not to mention the innuendo that she was posting on a public forum she didn't mind the idea of a
sitting President being assassinated .
Maybe layer she regretted her words or maybe she was sorry she got caught irregardless the words are out there her thoughts, the company she worked for had no choice but to take action
We have the right to freedom of speech but we also must always consider how are words are going to effect others, what will be the far reaching effects.
I've seen people post things on these social media sites with apparently no hesitation of how these revelations might effect others or themselves.
Everyone has access to the internet and if you don't want things to be broadcast to the world then don't post it because it becomes available the moment you do.
I believe what both women did was very irresponsible and left their employers no other recourse, the fallout could have hurt these companies tremendously.
Words matter, that's pretty simple to understand

crimeriddendump commented on Saturday, Nov 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Hi rozemist,

"Words matter, that's pretty simple to understand"

Very true. Too bad some here don't agree and find no value to words and freely talk out of both sides of the mouth or disingenuously play all sides of an issue.

Words matter. I could not agree more.

Bull153 commented on Monday, Dec 03, 2012 at 21:53 PM

It appears that insanity is not limited solely to the 'Golden State' or Washington DC. A 19 year veteran firefighter in the 'Sunshine State' has been fired from his job for bringing a roll of toilet paper to work emblazoned with the image of Barack Obama. While not as vile as wishing harm on the President, using Presidential (and I don't mean stamped with the official seal) is very inappropriate and disgusting.

It is really hard to have any sympathy for this guy in view that he had been warned about bringing politically themed twice before and specifically ordered not to do it again. Had it been a first offense, I would have supported a warning. When you are bound and determined to be stupid - well. as Ron White would say "You just can't fix stupid".

- Ron

“Everyone has a right to be stupid; some people just abuse the privilege.” - Unknown

crimeriddendump commented on Monday, Dec 03, 2012 at 23:57 PM

Hello Bull153,

Your above post is confusing. It seems to either be contradicting itself, or, contradicting both your blog and your prior comments. Could you please clarify?

Bull153 commented on Tuesday, Dec 04, 2012 at 00:26 AM

@ crimeriddendump...


- Ron

“Insanity - It's difficult to comprehend how insane some people can be. Especially when you're insane.” - Larry Kersten

DLangdon commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 18:38 PM

While Freedom of Speech does allow you to say what you want, it does not protect you from the consequences of that speech. These can range from nothing to being publicly condemmed to losing your employment. The more outlandish the speech, the more likely there will be severe consequesces. If it causes your employer problems, get your resume ready.

While you have the right to say what you want, I also have the right to point out what an idiot you are for saying it.

crimeriddendump commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 18:43 PM

Very interesting you say that DLangdon. I wish more people here would heed such advice.

I would very much like to understand the author of this blogs actual position. It would seem in the actual blog he is offended the people he mentions lost their jobs sighting first amendment rights etc. , while later on, he suggest that it was the right thing for the employers to do in the situation.

Too bad we won't get a real discussion, only disingenuousness.

Bull153 commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 19:28 PM

@ DLangdon...

The right to free speech is not absolute, I agree. But I contend the venue in which the free speech is employed makes a difference. In my blog I pointed out the use of social media in these two cases, i.e. Facebook.

I contend it isn't my employer's place to police my use of social media UNLESS it directly ties into my employment. For example, if I post a you-tube video of myself taking a bath in the huge sink in my employer's fast food establishment - that happened - I should be fired. If I related on Facebook my dislike of the President, that is another thing entirely, UNLESS I am wearing my McDonald's uniform when I say it.

In the case of the fireman, that wasn't so much social media, as a direct violation of his terms of employment - having been twice warned. If this clown wants to wipe his butt with Barack Obama's image on his toilet paper, that's his business - but not in a work area he shares with other people.

You do have the right to point out idiotic actions to idiots. So do I. It is apparent that some people can't see the difference between social media and an employee's workplace. I suppose it is a case of common sense - some people just don't have any.

- Ron

“Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.” - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Nothing is more fairly distributed than common sense: no one thinks he needs more of it than he already has” - Rene Descartes

crimeriddendump commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 20:25 PM

Hello Bull153,

Are you saying employers have ZERO RIGHTS to enforce buisnes standards anywhere but the actual workplace?

Make sure you think real hard before you answer that.

Bull153 commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 20:36 PM


- Ron

crimeriddendump commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 22:03 PM

Hello Bul153,

I know you don't want to think real hard before answering. But, could you perhaps reconsider?

Bull153 commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 22:18 PM

No. Now leave me alone.

- Ron

crimeriddendump commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 23:15 PM

Sorry Bull153, I'm just trying to clarify your rather confusing posts here as you seem to be double talking a bit ..

Bull153 commented on Wednesday, Dec 05, 2012 at 23:36 PM

No you're not... and I'm not.

- Ron

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