What Happens When Worker Posts “I’d Like to Get Fired” on Facebook?

By Eric B. Meyer

Want to know what happens when an employee posts “I’d like to get fired on Facebook”? I’ll give you a hint.

The lede from this KTVK report in Phoenix is: “A single sentence posted on Facebook changed Amy McClenathan’s life forever.”


Griping alone on Facebook is not protected speech

According to KTVK, Ms. McClenathan made the Facebook post because she was having a rough day near the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death. So, I won’t pretend to judge Ms. McClenathan for what she was going through that day. And even assuming the post precipitated the firing, I won’t critique the propriety of her employer’s response — she was fired.But, wait just a hot minute! She was complaining about work on Facebook and … she got fired?!? How could that be?

Just remember: an employee griping alone — by any other name (or medium) — is still an employee griping alone.

Our social-media snafu du jour reinforces what Dan Schwartz at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog wrote last week. Namely, all this stuff you may have read recently about employees having the blanket right to complain about work online is BS.

If anything that the National Labor Relations Board has said recently matters (and that’s a BIG if), the rights of employees to gab about work together extends to online speech. But you see that word there — together — that’s important. Because, generally speaking, while the law gives employees the right to engage in protected concerted activity, it does not protect employees who gripe alone. That’s true whether an employee complains online, in person, via telephone, voice mail, email…

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Yes, doing dumb stuff can get you fired

Folks, if an employee acting alone sky-writes, “I wish I could get fired” over corporate headquarters, does she keep her job?

Social media is just another form of communication. It’s collaborative qualities lend themselves to employees being able to complain or (gasp) praise you together. But an employee who acts alone…

Whether it’s Ms. McClenathan asking to get fired on Facebook, or Carly McKinney a/k/a CarlyCrunkBear, a first-year teacher, who tweets half-naked pictures of herself

{I’ve logged your IP address and I’m calling your IT Department}

…brags that she tweets when she should be working, and further suggests that she grades papers of her “jailbait” students while stoned {thank you Gawker, thank you} when an employee does dumb stuff online (or offline), an employer has the right to respond — in any way it damn well pleases.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.


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