Liking the Wrong Thing on Facebook Can Get You Fired

| 4 May 2012 15:00

A judge in Virginia makes using social media a little more complicated.

You know that awkward moment on Facebook where you find out your boss is a huge fan of the Yankees, and you just clicked the "Like" button on the Red Sox page? Those moments might get a little more tense, as a recent case involving a sheriff who fired employees over supposedly liking an opponent's Facebook page ended with a federal judge ruling that liking a Facebook page doesn't qualify for First Amendment protection.

The story goes like this: During the 2009 elections, Sheriff B.J. Roberts of Hampton, Virginia supposedly learned that a handful of his employees were supporting one of his opponents, Jim Adams, by clicking the "like" button on Adam's Facebook page as well as attending a barbeque fundraiser. In response, Roberts called a department meeting, advising the staff to get on the "long train" with him rather than give their support to someone else, and then after winning re-election, Roberts canned several employees, including those who supported Adams.

The workers believed that their Facebook "Like" was the reason behind why they got axed, and sued Roberts for violating their First Amendment Rights under the not-so-unreasonable belief that a Facebook "Like" is protected by free speech and they were unlawfully terminated. Unfortunately, U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson disagreed, and stated that while Facebook Posts could be considered protected speech, the simple act of "liking" a page isn't enough to count since you don't actually make any written statements when you do so.

"Simply liking a Facebook page is insufficient," Judge Jackson said in his ruling. "It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection. "

So what does this all mean? Well, that's what legal scholars across the country are trying to figure out while the dismissed workers file an appeal. In the meanwhile though, you might want to be a little more conscious about what you do on Facebook until it all gets settled. Or just be like me, and stick to playing games.

Source: Courthouse News via io9

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