Fired for Facebook Posts

October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month, however we also should take caution to what we are posting online – and this may be the reminder we need.

You posted what?!
As we live more of our lives online, social media has become the new water cooler for employees to discuss working conditions. On one hand, employers have the fear of disgruntled employees doing some serious brand damage online. On the other, they have the risk of being sued for violating federal law.

FIRED-FOR-FACEBOOK
Source: Online Paralegal Programs

Everybody’s Online: At Least Almost Everybody

7 in 10
Adult Internet users who use social networking sites
The younger the worker, the more likely they use social media:
Percentage of social media use by age group
18-29 83%
30-49 77%
50-64 52%
65+ 32%
15½ hours
Average amount of time spent per month on Facebook
1 in 4
Facebook users who don’t manage their privacy settings
6 in 10
Workers who say they are unsatisfied with their jobs
What does all of this mean? That you probably use Facebook or other forms of social media, and you use it a lot. It also means you’ve probably got some things to gripe about once you get home from work. It’s not a leap to say it’s at least tempting to unload your job dissatisfaction on social media. But be careful …

What the Law Says

What about free speech, you ask? The First Amendment protects you from legal consequences of protected speech, but it doesn’t mean you are immune from all negative effects. You would probably expect to be fired—or at least reprimanded—if you insulted your boss to her face, so you should expect it if you do so online and the wrong person finds out.
But laws vary by state, as more lawmakers are recognizing and protecting the rights of employees in their off-the-clock communications. Generally speaking, an employer can intervene when:

  • An employee posts during work hours
  • An employee’s posts endanger the company (such as by revealing confidential information)

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers cannot fire workers acting with other employees to initiate a group action against a perceived injustice by their employer.

It’s Happening Everywhere

Here’s just a sampling of the stories of workers who were fired for what they said in social media:
Where: London, Buckingham Palace
Who: Palace guard
Why: The 18-year-old guard slammed Kate Middleton in a Facebook post

Where: O’Hare Airport, Chicago
Who: TSA baggage screener
Why: The nine-year TSA veteran repeatedly went on racist and homophobic rants publicly on Facebook

Where: Rhode Island
Who: Physician
Why: A 48-year-old doctor at a hospital posted information about an emergency room patient

Where: Arkansas
Who: Police officer
Why: The office posted a warning to residents not to drink and drive; his supervisor said the post compromised a planned DUI checkpoint

Where: Michigan
Who: Community college professor
Why: The professor used the story of a failing student in a status update

Where: Massachusetts
Who: Firefighter/paramedic
Why: Posting negative things about gays, mentally challenged people, public officials and others who disagreed with him

Where: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Who: Several hospital employees
Why: A worker snapped a photo of a woman he thought was attractive and shared it on Facebook; he was fired and so were his coworkers who “liked” the photo

Where: Chicago
Who: Bartender
Why: Making racist comments that soon went viral

Not Fired — Not Even Hired
The other part of this equation is making sure your online persona is clean to begin with, because potential employers are watching.
3 in 4
Recruiters required to conduct online research on candidates
70%
Recruiters who have rejected candidates based on online investigations
What employers are looking for:
65% Does the candidate present himself or herself professionally?
51% Is the candidate a good fit for company culture?
51% Want to learn more about qualifications
35% Is the candidate well-rounded
12% Reasons not to hire the candidate

SOURCES
http://pewinternet.org
http://www.statisticbrain.com
http://blog.bufferapp.com
http://www.huffingtonpost.com
http://www.wzzm13.com
http://college.monster.com
http://thenextweb.com

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What Your Teens Think of Your Online Reputation?

You know you’re a pretty good parent. Sure, you’re not perfect – but most of the time, you do what you have to do to provide a comfortable, nurturing life for your kids. Most importantly, your children love and respect you.

But because kids are naturally curious, they will start to wonder about aspects of your life that they aren’t familiar with. And since kids are computer-savvy, they’re likely to turn to the Internet to find the answers rather than ask you.

When they type your name into a search engine, what will they come across? Will they discover:

  • Inflammatory comments from you? Did you insult someone on a Facebook thread? Send out a foul-mouthed tweet? Or perhaps you even kept a personal blog at one point that espoused ideas you’ve since “grown out of”? They’re still out in cyberspace somewhere.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos with you in them? Maybe these images depict you drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, or consuming illicit drugs. Or perhaps you were wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing. Or it’s possible you were engaging in some activity that would require a difficult and uncomfortable explanation.
  • Photos or videos containing you and other members of the opposite sex? Even innocent photos of you and an ex-significant other can set off a confused train of thought in the minds of (particularly young) children. Especially if you were kissing or hugging someone who isn’t their mother/father. (And God forbid that ill-advised sex tape ever made its way onto the Web!)
  • Negative comments made by others about you? Kids are protective of their parents, so it may hurt them if they see other people saying bad things about Mom and Dad on Facebook or other social media sites, even if they were meant in jest. Especially if they were written by people that the child knows (like family friends or relatives).
  • Your membership in groups that may be difficult to explain? In addition to traditional organizations, this includes online forums, virtual worlds, and even gaming sites. If you are found contributing to a site or group that discusses drugs, weapons, illegal activity, or pornography – even one time – that will probably initiate an awkward parent-child conversation.
  • Complaints or accusations against you professionally? If you are a business owner, lawyer, or doctor, there are sites out there that collect reviews and comments about people in your industry. Practicing good merchant, attorney, or physician reputation management will reduce the odds of your kid seeing someone insult or gripe about their mom or dad.
  • Your criminal record? Sure, those criminal record database sites cost a little money – but that doesn’t mean that your child still won’t get access to them. Even if it was a drug charge, public intoxication arrest, or a misdemeanor assault or theft, any blemish on your past could undermine any moral authority you have with your kids in the future.

You’ve probably already figured out the moral of this story: It is essential that you monitor your online reputation. This means getting problematic content off of sites you control, and even asking other site administrators to remove unflattering material. Because the last thing you want is for some long-ago incident or bad decision to come back to haunt you by jeopardizing your relationship with your children.

Guest post by Chris Martin.

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Teens, Scholarships and What they Post Online

We are becoming a broken record as we try to explain to our kids what they post online can potentially affect their future.

The Internet is a wonderful educational tool but can also work against us if not properly used.

The dangers of technology, especially for kids and teens, has been in the media for the past several years.  Whether it is cyberbullying or Internet predators, South Florida especially is not a stranger to these horrific events.

For teens looking forward to higher education and especially applying for scholarships to help them with financing college, they need to think before they post on their social networking sites such as Facebook.

According to a 2011 Kaplan study, 80% of college admissions are using search engines and a students’ social media presence to screen their applicants which means your college application isn’t the only papers being reviewed about your child.  Exactly how does their digital footprint look?

Now let’s talk money.  Especially in today’s economy many families and students are applying for as many scholarships are they can.  Recent reports, like college admissions, are also using students’ social media presence to determine whether they are deserve the scholarship.

Facebook is obviously the largest social networking site that many use.  Isn’t it time to encourage your teen to sit down and clean it up?  Especially with the latest Timeline, it is simply a click away to see pictures or comments that maybe just don’t need to be there.

You may think because your child’s Facebook is set on private you are safe.  Don’t be fooled.  If it’s online, it’s usually public information – remember your child is friends with friends that may not not have their privacy settings set as high.

Don’t risk losing a scholarship or a college of your choice for a dumb remark online or a compromising photo!

3 Tips to maintain your teen’s digital resume:

  • Set up your Google, MSN, Bing, Twilert alerts (always know when there is something online about you so you can address it immediately). It only takes a few minutes, it is free and can save you a lot of reputation repair later on.
  • Buy your own URL in your teen’s name.  This can be less than $10.00 through GoDaddy and you can own your own online real estate.  Building a site can be easy and if you can do it with your personal interests, it sets the tone  for your future.
  • Create a Blog about you and your interests.  This is free.  Use your name as the URL.  You can use Blogger.com or WordPress.com.  Both are user friendly and again, create it about you and your interests.  Keep your grammar and spelling in check.

If you need to know what happens when you don’t maintain and take pre-cautions with our online profile, read Google Bomb!  This is a cautionary tale of how a flourishing and successful career of over a decade can literally be brought to its’ knees due to a few keystrokes and a click of a mouse.

WATCH VIDEO.

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Teen Seasonal Employment: Employers Now Asking for Facebook URL – What Does Yours Say?

Please include your Facebook link when applying for a job

At first glance you would think this is a misprint, but after applying online to a health food store, a young college grad student was asked to provide his Facebook link as part of the application process.  Before doing this, he did change his photo, and this is not implying his photo was inappropriate, however really wasn’t what you want a potential employer to view.  It was a silly photo of him and his friends on a Merry-Go-Round, not exactly a first impression you want a future employer to view or misunderstand.

In reality, many employers and college admissions are viewing Facebook pages.  We don’t need The Social Network movie that took the number one spot for two weeks in a row, to remind us of how powerful the Internet has become. 

Just recently, Jessica Bennett, wrote an amazing article for Newsweek – “What The Internet Knows About You.”  If you haven’t read it, now would be a good time, and remember to pass it on to your friends and family.

With each passing day your privacy is becoming slimmer and slimmer.  When it comes to your safety and the safety of your family, you need to take precautions to insure your cybersafety and your virtual resume. What is your Faceboook insurance?

With this information, as the holidays are approaching and many teens will be looking for seasonal help, they may want to take a double-take at their Facebook page.  If you are an adult looking for a job, needless to say, it can’t hurt to re-evaluate what you are posting online.

What may seem humorous to you and your friends, could be offensive to others.  Privacy is a gift, and how much you want to give is up to you.  However give with caution!

Learn more about ways to protect your privacy and protect yourself from identity theft.

Don’t learn the lesson the hard way, “Google Bomb! The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Changed the Way We Use the Internet,” a story everyone needs to read.

Read more.

Sue Scheff: Is Google God?

Source: Toronto Sun

More like Casebook

Social networking sites can sometimes make or break a case in court

Be careful what you post on Facebook or MySpace, because anything you say or upload can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Last year, for example, an Ottawa court heard that a civil servant had started a clandestine affair with an old friend she reconnected with through Facebook during a messy custody battle involving three kids.

In a Vancouver courtroom last month, defendants in a personal injury case produced photos from the plaintiff’s Facebook profile showing that while Myla Bagasbas was seeking $40,000 in damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment after a car accident, she was still able to kayak, hike and bike post-accident.

“Facebook will be seen as a gold mine for evidence in court cases,” said Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in ethics, law and technology at the University of Ottawa.

But it will also challenge the courts to further define the notion of personal privacy. In a precedent-setting case this year, a Toronto judge ordered that a man suing for physical injury in a car accident be cross-examined on the contents of his private Facebook profile. Justice David Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice overturned a previous court decision that called the defendant’s request to look for incriminating evidence a “fishing expedition.”

The very nature of Facebook is to share personal information with others, Brown wrote, and is likely to contain relevant information about how the plaintiff, John Leduc, had led his life since the accident. But if Leduc’s profile is private with restricted access, is that considered an invasion of privacy?

“The courts sometimes don’t get it,” Kerr said. “The tendency in judicial opinion and popular thinking is that once something is out in the public, there’s no such thing as privacy anymore. But that can’t be right because we all have curtains.”

For Facebook users, those curtains are our privacy settings. If our home is our castle, Facebook should also be considered a walled domain, Kerr said.

For example, while a member may post pictures from a beer bash the night before, that doesn’t mean they would take the same pictures to show off to their boss the next day, Kerr explained.

Likewise, in Murphy versus Perger, a judge ordered that the plaintiff, who was suing for claims of personal injury and loss of enjoyment of life after a car accident, produce copies of her Facebook pages showing photos of her engaging in social activities. In her judgment, Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Rady wrote “The plaintiff could not have a serious expectation of privacy given that 366 people have been granted access to the private site.”

But having 366 Facebook friends doesn’t entitle the rest of the world to view personal information meant only for certain eyes, said Avner Levin, director of the Privacy Institute at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

“It’s not how many people you share it with, it’s who you choose to share the information with,” Levin said. “The judge is missing the point. What’s important is not how many people are your friends, but who you choose to know you.”

While we’re able to compartmentalize and separate people in our lives offline by assigning titles to different spheres — co-workers, neighbours, family — the online world fails to recognize those distinctions, he added.

It’s a habit that spills over in the job hunt as well. Employers admit they rely heavily on information they glean about a candidate from Google searches and networking profile pages. But it’s an unfair screening process, Levin said, and attaches more value to people’s online identities — and sometimes third-party information — than the candidate they meet in real life.

“We need to suppress that tendency to go on Google and look people up. There’s already a process of hiring that works for them and has been working for years,” Levin said.

While we’re more likely to trust a direct source and treat gossip with skepticism in the offline world, the same can’t be said of online information.

Pruning online identities and putting a person’s best cyber-foot forward are services offered by companies such as DefendMyName, a personal PR service which posts positive information about a client and pushes down negative links in Google. ReputationDefender also destroys libelous, private or outdated content.

“A resume is no longer what you send to your employer,” said ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik. “More people look at Google as a resume.”

But instead of authenticating information found online, people are trusting secondary material and treating Google like God.

“What happens is in a court of law, you have to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. On the Internet though, many decisions are based on lower standards,” Fertik said.

But is sanitizing a person’s online reputation of unflattering content an infringement of freedom of speech and freedom of expression?

“Only if you believe Google is the best and most accurate source of information,” Fertik said. “But I don’t think Google is God. I believe Google is a machine.”

vivian.song@sunmedia.ca