Fired over Facebook

2009-05-27 09:32

Johannesburg - An employee has been fired and two others suspended for posting Facebook updates considered unacceptable by their companies, The Times reported on Wednesday.

A 23-year-old administration clerk at a clothing factory south of Durban lost his job after being reported by a co-worker for calling his boss a "serial masturbator" on Facebook.

Wits Law Clinic Professor Willem de Klerk said the Constitution promotes freedom of expression "provided that what is expressed is based on fact".

"There is a huge difference between having your say based on fact and using the platform to slag off your employer," De Klerk said.

Bloggers have previously come under fire for writing defamatory statements about people or employers, but being fired on the basis of a Facebook status update is a relatively new phenomenon to South Africa, say experts.

A 25-year-old Johannesburg-based Facebook user was suspended for punting a competitor’s product on her profile homepage.

Another, also 25, was suspended for venting about his Pretoria-based employer's alleged laziness.

Malicious comments illegal

De Klerk warned that malicious Facebook comments are as illegal as verbal defamatory statements.

But he suggests that the employer should consider whether that was the only outlet to express a grievance.

"But if the employee crossed the line and deliberately made comments to be malicious, then he should be fired," De Klerk said.

Labour lawyer Johann van Zyl said many South African companies have blocked Facebook but are also wising up to the need for labour policies designed to prevent employees from bringing the company into disrepute in their private time.

Van Zyl said labour lawyers expect to see more cases of internet abuse and online defamation being brought against employees as the technology continues to grow, the newspaper reported.

  • Justin McCall - 2009-05-27 09:52

    Well, I have heard many reports of this over the last few months. My comment is this ... If the employers actually treated their staff with respect and made the work environment a livable one, then they won't attract such comments on Facebook. So many times an employee has an issue and management continually deny the problem, and are not willing to address it. An employer should discuss the matter first, then take legal action if necessary. Emnployers can be so childish.

  • Michael - 2009-05-27 09:59

    This whole facebook and twiiter is an outlet for people that is public domain. I as an employer go onto facebook and check out new possible employees and see what they let hang out there in cyber space. One can read the person like a book by what/how they conduct facebook/twitter. I make my decision on the person by what I read. In my personal opinion any slagging by writter about anyone can be taken to court.I would fire anyone that posts negitative comments about me or my company.Simple as that

  • Jonathan Meyer - 2009-05-27 10:01

    Who's to say that the guy's boss isn't a serial mastabator though? If you're going to say the statement isn't based on fact and is therefore not freedom of expression then it must be proved beyond resonable doubt that the man isn't a serial mastabator...

  • Ace - 2009-05-27 10:08

    ppl should not use other ppl to get to the top,Why did the co-worker report this incidence, wht were his/her motives, I am not condoning this behaviour but people should just stop using other people to get to the top of the ladder.*disgusted*

  • Gareth - 2009-05-27 10:09

    Why don?t we also introduce measures to control what people dream, and think privately too. Then no one will have to worry about their fragile egos. We can have a preapproved list of what you can or can't say, do or even think. Let?s take the very life right out of our souls. It is quite pathetic; I really could not care less what someone writes about me. Furthermore, it reads, you can base your words only on fact. Fired over Facebook, that begs the question: WTF!

  • Brian Taylor - 2009-05-27 10:22

    If you can't say something nice about someone then don't say anything at all. Respect (from all sides) is what is needed, and this country needs it in huge doses.

  • VG - 2009-05-27 10:24

    It doesn't say whether the employees used company computers/internet to commit these "offences" but imo my facebook page is about me communicating with my friends so if I think my boss is a ****, chances are they've heard it all before.. I'm appalled to read that employers are able to access this info.

  • Piet - 2009-05-27 10:24

    Oh wow... but quoting Roger Allen Wade: "If your going to be dumb, you better be tough"

  • Deon V - 2009-05-27 10:26

    What a silly comment to make! Do you propose the same for one that's called a rapist etc. Facebook is not the platform to slag off people.

  • Anony Mous - 2009-05-27 10:31

    why can we not vent on FB, its private and has NOTHING to do with the company... adding your boss to your friends list is stupid, but otherwise you are effectively telling your friends your boss is a chop, which should be fine and many times it is "based on fact" :)

  • Gareth - 2009-05-27 10:32

    Surely a mature approach would be to call the person in and talk to them, if they are so negative about you or your company there is more than likely a reason. I too have my own business and should someone tarnish its name then they can go right ahead. It is so obvious to anyone with an inkling of logic what the truth is, so you would rather concern yourself with one person's views and the social circle they employ than just get on with it?

  • bulelani silangwe - 2009-05-27 10:32

    That was not very clever... I know people bad mouth their bosses at drinking sessions and other social networks, but posting something that malicous is very dangerous to say the least not to mention career limiting.. Lets think before we do.

  • Anti-arrogant - 2009-05-27 10:34

    Getting fired about a status update is so stupid. The employer should be exposed. here we sitting in the heart of recession,I can think of a million other things to be concerned about and these poor suckers are on about facebook. The collegue who reported it the the employer remimds me of the back stabbing pricks I work with. I am firm beliver,I will excell because of what I can deliver not because I Kiss Ass!

  • Phil - 2009-05-27 10:34

    GOOD, it is about time action was taken. This behavaviour is NOT acceptable and before you think I am part of any management, I am not, just an employee who thinks people need to THINK before shouting off their mouths

  • Paul - 2009-05-27 10:35

    If a person brings the company he works for in disrepute then he must be fired. Posting derogstory comments about your company or boss on your website (which is available to everyone) is just as bad as standing on a street corner telling everyone. And hmmmm. The law is that you are innocent until proven guilt therefore the person making the comment of serial masturbator has to prove that he is and not the other way around... you muppet!

  • Domoniqued - 2009-05-27 10:37

    this is utter rubbish, if one of my employees make a fb comment i cant do a thing, how can i prove they put it there as internet hacking on a unsecured site like facebook is rife, and besides those are not grounds for dismisal, maybe a private lawsuit what if i enter my status as "i dont want to work today" (the lyrics to a song) will i be fired for threatening to strike?

  • Janette - 2009-05-27 10:37

    Maybe having your boss and co-workers as Facebook friends isn't such a good idea? Do you really want them to see the drunken pics you posted doing body shots over the weekend? If you can't avoiding adding them you can restrict them from seeing your status updates, posted items and many more things.

  • Jon - 2009-05-27 10:38

    One needs to establish if there is fact behind his expression and if in fact the employer is proved to be a serial masturbator, then the employee should be given counselling and his job back, not to mention why the employer should also receive counselling and an inquest should be opened as to how the employee knows this and why the employer is doing this during work hours. hahahahahhahahahahahah what a laugh!

  • Diane - 2009-05-27 10:38

    If the shoe fits then the employer must wear it. A lot of employers infuriate their employees and Facebook is a good place to vent, so shame on the employers and their spies for invading peoples privacy.

  • Dee - 2009-05-27 10:39

    Maybe too much time (belonging to the employer) is used in personal persuits. When one puts out, in public, remarks about others, especially the one responsible for your pay-cheeque, better you be in a position to be accountable. Why even have this discussion; whose 'rights' are being defended? If you speak your mind, mind what you speak...

  • Majik - 2009-05-27 10:41

    What a crock! I agree with Jonathan Meyer he should now have to prove that he isn't a serial mastabator, besides why would the employee lie about something like that? lol grow up and get over your ego's.

  • yeti - 2009-05-27 10:43

    Surely the employee posted the word "wanker". All men are probably serial masturbators, anyway, so big flipping deal!

  • 587 - 2009-05-27 10:43

    whats next, you cant swear in your damn car? pathetic. truly truly pathetic.

  • Marco - 2009-05-27 10:44

    thumbs up.. budd... you got the courage.. LMAO... and brian by your reply you obvisouly working in a great environment... and there is no proof on how Serial this guy is.. LOL.. but surely.. the stains tells it all.

  • yeti - 2009-05-27 10:51

    If you've done it more than one then you are by definition a serial masturbator. Show me a man who isn't...

  • Pebbles - 2009-05-27 10:52

    This is one of the reasons why I'm not facebook friends with colleagues. Duh...

  • Sasa - 2009-05-27 10:54

    That's silly! Why are employers spying on their workers anyway? Facebook/ Twitter etc. are meant for expressing happiness/anger/frustration, let it be, it's better than calling someone a serial wanker to their face innit?

  • AJ - 2009-05-27 10:54

    So if some called you a wanker you would be happy for the whole world to assume it as being fact until you had provedo ther wise? Does'nt work like that obviously.

  • Anon Y Mous - 2009-05-27 11:07

    How do you prove that you're not a serial masturbator? The idiot who made that comment on FB has to come with documented proof that will withstand a scrutiny by experts, in order to prove his case. The boss then would still have to fire the moron for being an undesireable element in society, a voyeur. FB is not that private, slagging off your boss or the company that you work on FB has a more detrimental effect than you shooting your drunken assed mouth off to your similarly minded friends.

  • Domoniqued - 2009-05-27 11:13

    okay my face book status is now a comment stating that i dont like what the goverment is doing, is that treason??

  • BB - 2009-05-27 11:16

    Never bite the hand that feeds you!!!!

  • NorthernExposure - 2009-05-27 11:18

    I am an employer as well and I do allow my staff internet access and some of them do go onto FB. If one of them would slag me on FB I will take the same course of action. Employees can take up issues with employers and if they are not satisfied they can make use of other avenues like workers unions to resolve issues with management. Bringing the company that pays for your lifestyle into disrepute and slagging them in public will get your ass fired!

  • Majik - 2009-05-27 11:19

    I doubt the guy has the whole world on his FB account! Why are you so worried are you that boss?

  • Fred - 2009-05-27 11:29

    The fact is a lot of people using Facebook lack common sense and are downright stupid. Posting their home address and otherwise sensitive data and such is stupid. Keep your profile private and don't post pictures/text that can come back to bite you.

  • Pierre - 2009-05-27 11:31

    This is bs! So if he goes to court or gets fired, what freedom of expression is there? If I go to a braai on Saturday and someone asks me how I am I WILL tell him that mt boss is a chop if that is how I experience things. So what makes this different to if I post it on facebook? And yes to add yr boss as a friend is a bit dumb...

  • Erica - 2009-05-27 11:34

    I think it is ridiculous that employers can access your facebook profile. After all what happened to freedom of speech? Why should a person get fired or suspended because you let your friends know how you feel about your employers or work place? There are suppose to be formal grievance procedures in place and not always followed through, so you lash out and get fired? I don?t get it. Why don?t employers just bug our houses, cars, office desks, phone etc?

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