Do you have a Social Netwoking Policy? In Colleton County, a South Carolina paramedic and firefighter was fired earlier this month because of a video he posted on Facebook. Brown’s situation is similar to an increasing number of disciplinary actions being taken against firefighters for social networking. The case shows the challenge that fire service leaders and firefighters face in dealing with social media issues. What appears to be uncontroverted is that Brown created an animated video at a web site, xtranormal.com, on which you can create cartoon-like characters, type in a script, and the characters will speak in a robotic-like language. The video involved two characters, a white firefighter and a black doctor, set in the emergency department of a hospital.
There are thousands of social networking sites other than Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Linkedin, with some of the thousands to inlcude: Advogato, Amie Street, ANobii, aSmallWorld, Athlinks , The Auteurs, Avatars United, BabyCenter, Badoo, Bebo, Bigadda, BigTent, Biip, BlackPlanet, Blogster, Bolt.com, Books iRead, Buzznet, CafeMom, Cake Financial, Care2, Cellufun, Classmates.com, Cloob, CollegeBlender, CouchSurfing, DailyBooth, DailyStrength, Decayenne, deviantART, DigitalVerse.org, Disaboom, Dol2day, DontStayIn, Draugiem.lv, Elftown, Epernicus, Eons.com, Experience Project, Exploroo, Facebook, Faceparty, Faces.com, Fetlife, Fillos de Galicia, FilmAffinity, FledgeWing, Flixster, Flickr, Fotolog, Foursquare, Friends Reunited, Friendster, Frühstückstreff, Fubar, Gaia Online, GamerDNA, Gather.com, Gays.com, Geni.com, Gogoyoko, Goodreads, Google Buzz, Gossipreport.com, Grono.net, Habbo, hi5, Hospitality Club, Hyves, Ibibo LinkedIn, Listography, LiveJournal, Meetup.com, and Meettheboss.
Is a policy needed? Most certainly. Do you have one that you are willing to share? Please do.
Twitter with caution
My personal opinion is that when I am at my house I should be able to post anything I want. I understand not using the department name and things like that but I think it is time for the companies to butt out of my personal life away from work. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
If the conduct occurs at your personal residence, and it affects your employer your conduct does come under some scrutiny by your employer. I am not sure if Mr. Brown created this video on duty or off duty, but the effects on Mr. Brown are devastating to him and his family and it began the debate related to social networking policies.
At the recent EMS Conference in Baltimore, Steve Wirth, of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth LLC, a national EMS-industry law firm, discussing the Brown dismissal told a session at the conference that employees of public agencies — unlike private — do have some constitutional rights in the workplace. "It does include the right to speak out on matters of public concern. But the same protection does not apply to matters of private concern, including employment related issues and grievances about work policy generally," he said. Wirth said elements of the video — which Brown said he created to highlight the frustrations EMS providers can face — could be deemed as dealing with matters of public concern; specifically responders' time being tied up with minor calls.
He told the session while it could be deemed as "protected speech," parts of the video that did not involve matters of public concern could be used as reasons for dismissal. Steve Wirth discussed this issue at length indicating that there are certain elements of Mr. Brown’s conduct which lead to his termination could be upheld in any pending litigation.
This is a major issue for employer’s right to manage the social media postings by their employees and as you see in my posting above you and in other news around the country. For example, a Fire Capt. detailed to the Philadelphia Fire Department's recruitment team, was placed on paid leave over allegations that he proposed a scheme to bring in more minority candidates by doctoring the city's computerized application process through email. There is obviously a lot more detail to this issue, but you get the point.
Protected speech is our constitutional right – although a limited right in certain situations.