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Press Releases

Facebook got me fired!

19 Sep 12

Most of us do it: Facebook, Twitter, MXit or blogging. Done correctly, social networks are a great way of building friendships and relationships. One poorly placed comment however can get you fired.

"It is happening more and more often," says Selena Naidoo, a Legal Advisor with Clientèle Legal. "People get into serious trouble for what they say on social networks."

Just because you invite 'friends' to your network, does not mean it is a private conversation.

South Africans will remember a recent case where model Jessica Leandra Dos Santos was stripped of her FHM Modelbook 2011 title. In a moment of anger, she took to Twitter and tweeted an explicit racial slur in response to what she perceived to be sexual harassment in a supermarket. Quicktrim, a sponsor, released her as well. The details of the alleged harassment did not even enter the argument. Her reputation as ambassador for FHM or Quicktrim was irreparably tarnished by one single tweet.

'Remember that social networking is exactly that – social', Naidoo warns. 'Just because you invite "friends" to your network, does not mean it is a private conversation. It is in the public domain. The "freedom" our constitution gives you when affording you "freedom of speech" is not absolute. It does not extend to libel or defamatory statements.'

In a recent labour case from the Clientèle Legal files, a man was called to a disciplinary hearing after accusing his colleagues and boss of being 'back stabbers' and 'two faced' on Facebook.

Many companies see an employee's social media activities as an extension of the company...

The company, a large financial institution, charged the employee with Gross Misconduct: 'You brought the company's name and management into disrepute in a public domain.' Even though the person did not name the company, the colleagues or the boss, the Chairperson of the disciplinary hearing ruled the statements malicious and defamatory, plus that the employee had 'irrevocably broken down the trust relationship between the employee and the company.' The man was dismissed. The CCMA has upheld dismissals of this nature in the past.

It is also becoming more common for companies to consider looking at Facebook and LinkedIn profiles as part of the interview process when hiring people. They give an overview of what people can expect of you socially and emotionally, as important as the hard skills needed for your job.

Naidoo explains: "Many companies see an employee's social media activities as an extension of the company, which is why social media policies are put in place by more and more companies. Make sure you know what your company's policy is."

Bottom line: Keep work and social lives separate and always be aware of your company / employers Social Media Policy.

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