Facebook and social media sites like it has changed our world in many different ways. On the positive side, we can communicate and keep up with more people that we have met and befriended in our lives no matter where they live, reach out to people from our past that was not possible before and otherwise become and stay more connected in this increasingly complex world that we live in. But there is a downside to this ability to connect and these negatives can be devastating for employees. We have observed more and more instances where employees have said things about their employers, their bosses and/or co-workers that not only could cost them their jobs but severely damage their careers. This can be avoided by using common sense.
This past weekend I asked my relatively recent college graduate daughter who has a great full time job whether she "friended" her co-workers on Facebook. Holding my breath for her answer, she indicated that she had not and I exhaled a big sigh of relief. Because the common sense step for any employee is to not "friend" their bosses or co-workers. Too many times, employees who are angry at their bosses or co-workers vent their frustrations or grievances publicly on sites like Facebook and this usually does not end well, especially when other co-employees have been "friended" on their Facebook page. Just last year I defended an ex-employee who vented at her former employer who gave her a hard time to release her from a non-competition agreement so that she could work at a non-competitor. That venting cost her dearly in attorney's fees paid to me when she was sued for disparaging and defaming her former employer. While it turned out that her Facebook post was neither disparaging or defamatory and in fact the employer's lawsuit was frivolous (the case settled with my client paying no money to her ex-employer), it nevertheless created severe and needless anxiety for this client and of course the legal fees that she had to pay.
Number one and two common sense rules for employees: don't discuss your job on social media sites like Facebook (unless you are accurately listing your credentials and experience on sites like Linked-In) and don't "friend" your co-workers and especially your bosses. Friendships come and go, especially workplace relationships, but once your words are out of your mouth and into the public domain, they cannot be taken back and can come back to haunt you.
Remember, the law can only do so much to protect employees. In the end, one very effective way to protect your job is to use common sense. Then you won't have to spend money on attorneys to undo the damage that could have been avoided.