Employer (barely) escapes rash Facebook post, even after a quick delete

Posted by Melissa Fleischer, Esq. on Sep 6th 2013

It’s not just employees’ telling stories out of school -- and on Facebook -- that end up under a judge’s scrutiny: Sometimes it’s the boss.

An owner of a chain of bars apparently drunk-posted a frustrated entry on his Facebook page about a wage-and-hour lawsuit some of his employees had filed against him. He wrote, “Dear G-d, please don’t let me kill the girl that is suing me.” He deleted it within a few hours.

In the meantime, one employee, a Facebook friend who had joined the lawsuit against the owner, felt threatened and quit. She had been sitting a few feet away when the entry was posted. She added her retaliation claim against the lawsuit.

The judge, in dismissing the employee's claim, noted the employee was not mentioned by name, and that there was a class of people suing. In addition, he pointed out that the owner hadn’t said anything to her personally. The general manager of the bar indicated that there was no problem with the worker joining the wage-and-hour suit. Although the judge dismissed her claim, about half the wage-and-hour claims went forward.

Lesson for HR: A frequent review of social media policies is in order. It is very easy – far too easy in comparison to the past – for supervisors to tell the world (or Facebook friends) what they’re thinking. If they’re thinking about work frustrations, it can come back to haunt them (and you). And as this case, even quickly deleting won’t help. As this case shows, it’s not just what the supervisor says; it’s what people think they said.

Cite: Stewart, et al. v. CUS Nashville, et al., No. 3:11-cv-0342. M.D. Tenn.

Webinar info: Facebook firing: What you need to know about firing employees for Facebook or other social media posts.