Many of us use social media to lightheartedly complain about our workplace, but do so without thinking about the possible unintended consequences.
In a recent case (Debord v. Mercy Health System of Kansas, Inc.,) the plaintiff, Sara Debord, alleged that her former employer, Mercy Health, knew or should have known that her supervisor created a hostile workplace through unwanted touching and offensive sexual remarks. She also claimed that the hospital did not do enough to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and that when she finally reported the harassment, Mercy Health retaliated by firing her.
Debord had logged onto Facebook and wrote several posts during work hours. The relevant posts said,
(At 9:00 am) Sara DeBord loves it when my boss adds an extra $600.00 on my paycheck for hours I didn't even work ․ awesome!!
(At 1:37 pm) Sara DeBord is sooo disappointed ․ can't believe what a snake my boss is ․ I know, I know everyone warned me:(
(At 2:53 pm) Oh, it's hard to explain ․ basically, the MRI tech is getting paid for doing MRI even though he's not registered and myself, nor the CT tech are getting paid for our areas ․ and he tells me 'good luck taking it to HR because you're not supposed to know that' plus he adds money on peoples checks if he likes them (I've been one of them) ․ and he needs to keep his creapy hands to himself ․ just an all around d-bag!!
The hospital immediately began an investigation into both the allegations of worker overpay and the possibility of sexual harassment raised by the posts. Debord denied having authored the posts, saying three times that anyone could have posted them from her cellphone before finally admitting she had, in fact, written them. Debord was suspended for one day without pay for lying about the Facebook posts, and a week later, after determining that the overpay claim was false, and learning that Debord had been sending disruptive text messages to coworkers during the investigation, the hospital terminated Debord.
What was Debord's fatal error, according to the court? It was not only her making the Facebook comments and thus disrupting the investigation, but more importantly, lying about having made the comments in the first place. According to the court, Debord "[could] not dispute that dishonesty is a valid ground for terminating an employee."
As a rule, if an employer has legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for firing you, and is not using those reasons as a pretext, then your claims for harassment will fail. So don't push your luck by airing your grievances on Facebook and then denying you did it!