Don't Let Your Facebook Status Get You Fired

3:37 PM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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by Will Ripley, 9NEWS


- A man in Denver says he was fired for making a Facebook post.

- It was a nine sentence post complaining about his working conditions.

- Experts say anything you put on Facebook can potentially be used against you.

DENVER - The words you think are private could end up costing you big time.

Today's workplace conversations happen on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. But with this new world, come new risks.
Joe Lobato says he was fired for a Facebook post.

"It happened to me. I'm pretty sure it's happened to other people out there," Lobato said. "I feel so violated because of what I said on Facebook. I lost my job because of it."

Lobato was on the job and feeling sick.

"It felt like someone was kicking me in my stomach," Lobato said.

He says his supervisor was less than sympathetic.

"He told me I wasn't allowed to leave my machinery again," Lobato said.

Lobato logged onto Facebook and wrote a nice-sentence post complaining about his working conditions on March 23 at 5:09 p.m.

"I got to a point where I put a comment on Facebook that got me fired," Lobato said.

Lobato's coworker reported him to their boss.

His termination form says Lobato was fired for "gross misconduct," posting negative statements about the company on a "public forum."

9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson says Lobato could sue for his job back, but it will be a difficult case to prove.

"If you want to keep your job, don't be critical of your employer on Facebook. Suing your employer and winning, it doesn't happen very often, and it's going to take a lot of time and money," Robinson said.

The National Labor Relations Board says employees do have the right to talk about work conditions on Facebook, but employers are also allowed to take action against lone workers ranting online.

Tammeron Trujillo with Mountain States Employers Council advises companies to treat negative posts, just like they would if those comments were made in the cafeteria.

"I think social media really limits people's filters. What you say does matter," Trujillo said.

9NEWS digital content manager Misty Montano says even if a social media post doesn't get you fired, it could hurt your chances of getting a promotion or another job.

"There is nothing fully private in the internet space. The most common misconception is that employers are not looking," Trujillo said.

Other Coloradoans have paid the price for bad behavior online.

A high school teacher in Aurora was fired for posting on Twitter about having drugs on school grounds.

An executive for an Englewood-based company lost his job, and is facing criminal charges, for anonymous email threats and calls to a state lawmaker.

Lobato says he is about to lose his house and is definitely feeling the pain from that Facebook post.

"What happened to me I just feel is wrong," Lobato said.

With no job and no income, he says ranting online isn't worth it.

"Because you could end up being fired," Lobato said.

Lobato is fighting to get his job back, but it's not looking good.

There was a hearing on Tuesday morning with his former employer, during which Lobato says he was told his firing was justified.

The bottom line, experts say, anything you put on Facebook can potentially be used against you.

Things you can do right now to clean up your profile and prevent problems:

  • Search yourself on Google, Yahoo, and other search engines and see what you find
  • Increase your Facebook security settings and make sure your profile picture is appropriate 
  • Check Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and video sharing sites like YouTube
  • Put up a Google profile. It helps you control what you see right away when your name is searched
  • Delete old tweets and FB posts that may contain questionable content
  • Look at your friends list to make sure they are people you don't mind being associated with 
  • Have a trusted friend browse your social media profile
  • If you're a job seeker, create a LinkedIn profile

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