90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, August 22, 2011

Can Facebook Get You Fired?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during an announcement at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP)

With over 70 percent of the United States’ youth population on Facebook the gap that once existed between work and play is closing, raising questions about how employees’ social media activity impacts their job.

For instance, if you complain about work online, can you be fired? Depends on what you say and how your boss accesses that information. Now some employers are developing behavior codes for online activity.

Kabrina Chang, professor of business law and employment law at Boston University, decided to research the legal implications of firings that occur when online behavior meets the work place.

She told Here & Now‘s Sacha Pfeiffer that the best way to protect yourself is to be careful about what you post online:

Socials Media Do’s

  • Make sure your social media pages are “clean” before a job interview
  • Use common sense–remember that your web pages can be archived, and ask yourself: do you really want that comment to be forever connected to you in cyberspace?

Social Media Don’ts

  • Don’t friend your boss, but if you do, keep that page PG
  • Don’t lie to your boss and then post evidence of your lying online
  • Don’t use sexually explicit or potentially harassing language when talking about co-workers
  • Don’t bad-mouth your company on a work computer or company-issued mobile phone


  • Kabrina Chang, professor at Boston University

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Miller/100000482333104 Kenneth Miller

    I know at least 3 people who have been fired from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for email and facebook postings over the last few months.  They came down like an iron fist and established a new policy through setting examples.
    Every union organizer on the planet should be concerned with the issues discussed in this article.  This author’s advice constitutes fear mongering and a huge retreat. 
    Kenneth Miller
    Pittsburgh PA

    • Kathy

      I was let go from my job Aug,4,20011.Boss said “So you posted you hate your job and coworkers clock out you are terminated”.Thing is I did not post anything like that.I always talked good about my job.Post like I love my job and My residents.What I did post was about roud people and am glad when shift change is over so they leave and I can get on with my shift.Did not say what copany I was talking about or anyones name.Can they do this and get a way with it?I am still trying to fined out.But so far ya they can.Though I was told a law was just passed that an employer can not terminate for post on the internet.I have yet to fined that new law. Was passed ferst part of this Mo. so I was told.Anyone know about this?

      • Lemondude1861

        Kathy, I am dealing with this EXACT kind of thing at my job right now. I posted a comment that went along the lines of “I love working with rude nurses” and I was called into the VP’s office for a meeting with her, my boss, the head of HR, and the head of the heart center where I was informed that I was being suspended for 7 days even though I did not mention any person or company’s name. They justified suspending me by admitting that I didn’t specifically say my company’s name in my posts but that it is on my profile as my place of employment. I have emailed the ACLU and am in the process of speaking to a private attorney over this matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christa-Hillhouse/100000210347944 Christa Hillhouse

    to me, this is simply punishment for passive aggressive behavior! instead of dealing with work issues directly, complaining online can get you in trouble at work – not surprised. i have always felt that dealing with problems directly is THE way to go, and that goes back to way before there was an internet. i have quit jobs and blasted management on my way out the door via documents cc:’d to everyone in the company. it felt really good! talking behind someone’s back – yes even the boss’s back – is overrated and is, pardon my language, chickensh*t.

    • bellea

      glad you dont work for me ,,you shoud like a teenage girl

  • Bromine63

    I got called into the office by my Special Education Supervisor and Principal at the school where I was previously employed for posting a status update on my Facebook that led to the following posts:
    me:  Can I cry now? These are the comments that followed:
    FB Friend 1:   no. Just think of [kids names]. That should bring a smile to your face unless one of them is the reason you want to cry. FB Friend 2:   What happened FB Friend 3:   ‎:( u can always call or text me!!
    FB Friend 4: You should be HAPPY. It was a great day me:   Obviously you don’t work where I work. me:   My students could never make me cry…it’s the adults that make things miserable!!!
    FB Friend 5:   If you would like, I could push them around a bit. Shake ‘em up, show ‘em my guns (arm ones). :) FB Friend 6:   You must be working around the wrong adults ;) me:  You got that right, Ernin!!! FB Friend 6:   WoOt!!! Gotta love your crazy [town name omitted]  folk :P
    I wrote an email to my supervisor and principal and asked this:
    Please tell me how ANYONE could extrapolate from this exchange that I was saying [sub's name] was a bad sub?????  I was upset with [secretary's name] for yelling at me.  I’m sorry I have feelings and they get hurt easily. 

  • Anonymous

    I strongly disagree with Prof. Chang’s last statement. She effectively condones the trend of employers strong-arming candidates into sharing their private Facebook profile, by suggesting candidates ‘anticipate’ this potentially illegal behavior* and go along with the practice by ‘cleaning up’ their profile prior to interviews. Are you kidding me?

    I was anticipating her response to be a firm “you must say no”. So I was horrified to hear her instead say that applicants should revise their private communications into a “Rated G” profile. Her message is to surrender personal privacy rights and adapt to an employers-market. Sad words (frustratingly delivered through giggles) coming from a BU Business Law professor.
    *See related article: “Maryland Suspends Facebook Password Policy for Job Interviews” http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty/maryland-suspends-facebook-password-policy-job-interviews

    • Bromine63

      I couldn’t agree with you more, jycitizen!!  I’m sure that a majority of those bosses who insist on viewing or having access to their employees’ Facebook pages are probably banging their secretaries!!  LOL

  • loren

    I have a job where people are always on facebook, and the superviors are aware of this problem.
    I remember when facebook first came out and it was use just for being a social thing. And now people use it for the wrong  purpose.

  • Rich

    If you don’t have a Facebook account, then you can’t get into trouble for the content of it.

  • J Frog

    I wonder what employees would say if employers got together and created a “Beware Hiring This Guy” webpage?  Posting names and “horror” stories about former employees and “friending” a select group of other local employers to view and participate.  I doubt employees would be too pleased.

  • Ismarshall

    If you wouldn’t say it to the face of… your supervisor, coworker, prospective employer, mother, etc… they why on earth would you post it to Facebook at all? Privacy settings aside, if it’s posted in cyberspace it’s available to just about anyone. A former coworker of mine lost his job the day he called in sick to golf in the local Pro-Am. He had his picture on the front page of the paper. It’s not just Facebook that gets you fired, its poor choices.

  • Meg

     Last year I was fired from my job as a server at a a downtown restaurant for not adhering to new social promoting regulations.  I disagreed with my job forcing me to promote their business on my facebook page.  They were requiring all employees to post a status update every time they went into work promoting the happy hour specials of the day.  I voiced my concerns to my manager.  I told him that i did not have internet, that I was very rarely on facebook and that I felt uncomfortable with having the facebook world knowing exactly when I was at work.  His response was either start posting status updates or lose my job.  So I went to a coffee shop before work the next day to post a status update, and I was a little sarcastic.  I posted the following
    guess I’m giving into the man by selflessly promoting my place of
    business to abide by new promoting policies. COME VISIT ME AT (RESTAURANT NAME) !!!! wooooooooooo

    I was sent home after the first half of a double shift on a Friday night.  I was put on suspension with loss of shifts for the weekend and then I was fired on the following Monday. 

    So yes facebook can get you fired.  I understand that one should be careful with what they post on facebook, but do employers really have the right to control an employee’s social networking page?

    • Asdfdsfa

      you could always create a fake fb account.

  • Rocketman

    I work for a fortune 500 company that created a “company facebook” and they issued a newsletter encouraging us to “freind” the page. hmmm… what to do ?

  • Chris Howell

    The question
    “Can Facebook get you fired?”  The answer,
    of course, is yes, especially if you’re employed in the private sector.  In the United States of America private
    sector employment is considered “At Will”. 
    In other words, your boss can fire you for ANY reason so long as the reason
    for the firing doesn’t violate your rights under Equal Employment Opportunity Act.  Now, if you are part of a workforce that has
    formed an association that can bargain with your employer, in other words, a
    union with a negotiated collective bargaining agreement you have bought some
    protection.   Happy Labor Day!

  • gardenia

    My grandmotherly advice is: STAY OFF FACEBOOK!  It sounds like risky business to me.

  • Wordlass

    And what if I don’t have a Facebook page (and it just so happens I don’t). If an employer required me to post business updates, link to their page, provide my login at a job interview . . . what would happen if I told them I don’t have one? Would I be forced to create a page? Would they think I was lying and not hire me because of it? This is absurd!

  • Kathy

    I was told a law was passed ferst part of Aug 2011 that an employer can not terminate for your post on the internet.Anyone know anything about this new law?Read my post under Kenneth Millers post and you will see why I asked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scottmd Scott Davidson

    I say keep your personal facebook separate from work. Even make a special work facebook profile only. However, if you just want to bitch about your job without your work finding out, go to http://angrycubicle.com

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 29 Comment

World Championship Tug-Of-War Is ‘A Thing Of Beauty’

This weekend's competition in Wisconsin is a bit more intense than it was in your grade school gym class.

August 29 Comment

Repelling Mosquitoes With A Natural Sticky Patch

The Kite Patch releases odors that block the bug's carbon dioxide receptors, sending them in another direction.

August 28 Comment

Catching Up With The Polyphonic Spree

The choral rock band out of Dallas, Texas, has been thrilling audiences with its live performances for over a decade.

August 28 5 Comments

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

The oceanographer who discovered the floating island of trash in 1997 says he's shocked by how much it's grown.