October 21, 2012
Employee's Twitter Rant Means He Doesn't Get Unemployment Benefits--Burns v. UCBR
[Post by Venkat Balasubramani]
Burns v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 1268 C.D. 2011 (Commonwealth Ct. Pa. Oct. 16, 2012)
It’s almost become cliché to cite to examples of people fired due to their social media posts, but here is yet another example. (It actually involved unemployment benefits but the claimant was terminated due to his Twitter rant.)
Burns was a comptroller for AO North America. He posted disparaging remarks about his co-workers, work environment, and staff (using colorful descriptors like “toxic,” “morons” “dysfunctional,” “psychotic” and “schizophrenic”). AO had a code of conduct that required employees to “treat each other with respect” and prohibited harassment of any kind. A human resource partner testified that another employee complained about Burns’ posts to Twitter.
The question was whether he was terminated for misconduct (i.e., a violation of the employer's policy). There was no dispute that Burns was aware of the policy. He did not argue that it was unreasonable.* He tried to say that the posts were not about his work environment or co-workers, but this argument failed.
It's tough to distill a more sophisticated bit of teaching from this case, other than the obvious: watch what you say on social media . . . because those that control your pursestrings will certainly be watching.
[* I’m not sure whether this policy would be problematic under the NLRB’s most recent ruling, but this reminds me that we’ve been meaning to take a closer look at the NLRB’s guidance. This has unfortunately languished in the queue. Forthcoming!]
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[image credit: Shutterstock / yayayoyo]