Professionalism, Social Media and the Workplace

By Jon Hyman

Dec. 14, 2015

An employee was recently terminated because of this post on his personal Facebook page:

Mashable fills in the details:

Feminist writer Clementine Ford, who often bears the brunt of vitriol on social media, was called a “slut” by Michael Nolan on Facebook … .

Unfortunately for him, Nolan had his employer, hotel chain Meriton Apartments, listed on his Facebook profile.

Ford called for Meriton Apartments to take notice of the bad behaviour. “I wonder if the folks over at Meriton Apartments are aware that a man listing himself as a supervisor for their business likes to leave comments on women’s facebook pages calling them sluts,” she wrote … .

Since the incident, Ford was told by Meriton they had investigated the matter. The company explicitly stated they didn’t “condone” his behaviour and that his employment had been terminated.

Tomorrow, I’m speaking to a group of lawyers for the Northern District of Ohio’s chapter of the Federal Bar Association. My topic: Bad behavior online and how to avoid consequences at work. Here’s the key takeaway:

Employees need to realize that anything they say online can impact their professional persona, and that every negative or offensive statement could lead to discipline or termination (even if employers can overreact in these situations). Until people fully understand that social media is erasing (has erased?) the line between the personal and the professional, these issues will continue to arise. It is our job as employers to help educate our employees about living in this blended world.

Given that social media has reached a critical mass, I would think that by now this lesson would no longer need to be taught. Yet, as long as employees keep postings things that get them fired, I’ll keep writing and speaking about it. Apparently (and sadly), this is a lesson that needs repeating, and repeating, and repeating … .

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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