Employees Beware – Employers Taking Action Against Your Personal Facebook Postings

It’s happening in England and in the United States.  People believe that they have the right to free speech on their own personal Facebook pages when the posts are made on their own personal time.  But Big Brother is watching and apparently is taking action against comments it doesn’t like.

In the latest instance, Adrian Smith, a Christian living in England made a post to his Facebook page from his own home on his own time that caused his employer to demote him and cut his pay by 40%.  Prior to the posting, Smith was a housing manager at Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester.

On Feb 13, 2011, Smith posted a link to a BBC news story about gay church marriages on his Facebook page.  Along with the post, he added the comment, ‘an equality too far.’  His postings are only visible by his Facebook friends and their friends.  It turns out that one of his Facebook friends is also one of his colleagues.

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The colleague responded to Smith’s comment with the question, ‘Does this mean you don’t approve?’  Smith replied with, “I don’t understand why people who have no faith and don’t believe in Christ would want to get hitched in church. The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the state wants to offer civil marriage to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience”.

Someone, probably the colleague, showed Smith’s comments to the officials at Trafford Housing Trust who evidently took offense to them and ordered Smith to be disciplined with the demotion and drastic pay cut.

Smith appealed to the THT management, but his appeal was denied.  He has now taken legal action against THT claiming breach of contract and that his rights had been violated under the Human Rights Act.  A judge recently dismissed the Human Rights Act allegations as not being applicable in this case, so Smith is pursuing his case on the just the breach of contract grounds.

Should an employer be able to take disciplinary action for things you say and do on your own time?  Do you want your employer watching everything you post on Facebook or Twitter?  And if you post something they do not agree with, such as a personal stand on homosexuality, should they be allowed to punish you for it?

George Orwell’s science fiction novel, 1984, may have been more prophetic than he realized in 1949 when it was first published.  If I were you, I would be very careful of what you post and say on your social networking sites as Big Brother is watching.

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