Even scarier still: A judge ruled that the firing was A-OK
Have you ever used Facebook's Like button to show your support for a political candidate? Even if you haven't, someone you know probably has. After all, President Obama's Facebook page has over 26.4 million Likes and counting. But have you ever considered whether or not you could be fired for Liking a candidate?
According to a ruling by Federal District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson, you absolutely can be fired for using that Like button. "Simply liking a Facebook page is insufficient," wrote Jackson in his ruling. "It is not the kind of substantive statement that has previously warranted constitutional protection."
The decision was handed down in response to a case involving six Virginia workers who were fired by their boss, Sheriff B.J. Roberts. These workers, according to the case, "hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office." How, exactly? By Liking the Facebook page of Jim Adams, the man who was running against Roberts for the office of sheriff.
Predictably, the ruling has sent chills down the spines of defenders of the First Amendment. Said UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh in an interview with the New York Times, "It may just involve a mouse click, but a major point of that mouse click is to inform other that you like whatever that means."
The ruling will likely be appealed, and it is possible that the issue could be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, you may want to be careful about just who you like — especially if your boss is seeking re-election soon.
This is not the first time that a court has ruled on issues relating to workers' conduct on Facebook. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board demanded that five Facebook users be re-hired after they were dismissed for complaining about their workload on the social networking site, and a judge ruled them eligible for back pay. And earlier this year, a man was ordered to choose between apologizing to his estranged wife and spending 60 days in jail after posting private comments about her on Facebook.
[Image credit: Franco Bouly]
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