Firing by Facebook

Posted by:
Category: Computer Law, Labor & Employment Law
1 Comment »

Facebook Although just bad practice in the United States, Minna Kotkin (Brooklyn) brings to my attention a case in Canada where the cavalier nature of a firing may lead to bad faith damages being awarded against the offending employer.

Carolyn Elefant of Legal Blog Watch Blog reports:

These days, Facebook isn’t just a go-to social media application. The Web site’s ubiquitous role in everyday life is also transforming it into a conduit for lawsuits. A few weeks back, I posed about the Australian court that allowed lawyers to serve a couple with lawsuit papers via Facebook. Now, the Calgary Herald reports that a Canadian spa used Facebook to fire an an employee, esthetician Crystal Bell.

Is it illlegal for an employer to fire a worker via Facebook, or just imprudent? Here in the United States where employment is entirely at will, there aren’t any laws, at least as far as I’m aware, that would protect an employee from being fired on Facebook. However, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a 1997 ruling known as the Wallace decision, set out how a firing, if done in a cavalier way, can result in “bad faith”damages in addition to normal severance pay. However, the ruling does not address the issue of whether being fired electronically equates with bad faith. Moreover, at least one lawyer whom Bell contacted advised that she didn’t have much of a case — she’d only been at the spa for two weeks.

Putting aside the merits of this specific case, the cause of action that comes to mind for me is the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, since the focus is the manner in which the employee has been fired. Yet, I am not convinced that Facebook firings, which are certainly in bad taste and demonstrate a lack of tact, would probably not meet the standard of extreme outrageousness, which would require the action taken be: “utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

Indeed, the ubiquity of Facebook and the amount of communications taking place over it might make such electronic terminations seem more conventional than outrageous.

Print Friendly

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

One Response to “Firing by Facebook”

  1. Stacie Rosenzweig Says:

    Will we see grades by Facebook next?

Leave a Reply