Can a Facebook post get you fired?

Tuesday - 11/30/2010, 4:50pm EST

Vincent Melehy, attorney, Melehy & Associates

Click to hear the interview.

Download mp3

Could you be fired for what you post on Facebook?

The DorobekINSIDER told you about a case in the private sector where an employee was fired for using a Facebook post to criticize a supervisor.

The National Labor Relations Board determined that she was wrongfully terminated -- and that her employer, American Medical Response of Connecticut, had overly broad policies about social network use.

This is the first case in which the labor board said workers' criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site is a protected activity, The New York Times reports.

But are there other situations where Facebook use or Web 2.0 tools can get you fired? The NLRB case involved a private sector employee, but could a federal employee get fired for a Facebook post?

"It depends on a lot of things," said Vincent Melehy, an attorney at Melehy & Associates, in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

The NLRB case does not apply to federal workers. However, Melehy said that it is generally difficult to fire a fed who is posting about their boss on Facebook when not at work.

"If the employee is complaining about discrimination at work and says some fairly inflammatory things, that's still protected," Melehy said. "But if the employee starts getting personal and talking about his or her boss' weight or sexual practices or something like that, then you're getting into more dangerous territory."

Workers posting about illegal activities are headed further toward dangerous territory.

"That's a big no-no," Melehy said. "You could be fired for that. It could mean you know of illegal activities or you're engaged in it in some way."

Federal employees also have to be aware of possible violations under the Hatch Act that bans political activity.

However, the rules differ depending on your job. There are two groups of feds -- Most are in the less restrictive group and can engage in political activity outside of work. Others, such as employees in the intelligence community and enforcement agencies, cannot engage in any political activity at home or work, Melehy said.

Melehy said some supervisor may simply want to find a reason to fire an employee.

"Why give that mean manager a basis to go after you?" he said.

"The wise thing for folks to do is just not do it at all," Melehy said. "That's a tough act to follow these days but that would be my advice."