Facebook and Work Do Not Mix, Part Deux

Posted on Categories Labor & Employment Law, Speakers at Marquette

Facebook We were just discussing this issue on on the Marquette Faculty Law Blog last week and I gave my two cents in the comments section to that post.

Now, another example from the real world of how Facebook and work are interacting more and more (via Sky News):

Virgin Atlantic has fired 13 cabin crew after they posted comments on Facebook, calling passengers “chavs” and suggesting the planes were full of cockroaches.The airline said the employees’ behaviour was “totally inappropriate” and “brought the company into disrepute”.

It launched disciplinary action last week amid a row over a group created on Facebook, which has now been removed, about planes flying from Gatwick.

Claims that the airline’s jet engines were replaced four times in one year were made on the group’s discussion board.

In a statement, the airline said: “Virgin Atlantic can confirm that 13 members of its cabin crew will be leaving the company after breaking staff policies due to totally inappropriate behaviour.

“Following a thorough investigation, it was found that all 13 staff participated in a discussion on the networking site Facebook, which brought the company into disrepute and insulted some of our passengers.

“It is impossible for these cabin crew members to uphold the high standards of customer service that Virgin Atlantic is renowned for if they hold these views.” . . . .

A spokesman for the airline said: “There is a time and a place for Facebook.

“But there is no justification for it to be used as a sounding board for staff of any company to criticise the very passengers who ultimately pay their salaries.”

First, I am going to figure out what “chavs” are. But once I determine that, I pose to the readers of this blog the same question I posed to my employment discrimination law students last week: where do we draw the line between off-duty conduct that has no impact on employers and conduct that does?

Professor Mike Selmi (George Washington) argued at a faculty workshop at Marquette last week that we should have a bright-line rule: all conduct during work (including speech and privacy-related interests) can be regulated, and all off-duty conduct, like the type described above, is off limits.

Do Mike and others believe that the discharge of these Virgin Atlantic employees was wrong or somehow inappropriate? For those who live in states with off-duty conduct statutes, would those statutes protect these type of activities? Should they, if they don’t?

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.

One thought on “Facebook and Work Do Not Mix, Part Deux”

  1. First, to enlighten all (and to give me probably my only opportunity to quote Wikipedia in an academic setting):

    “‘Chav’ is a mainly derogatory slang term in the United Kingdom for a person whose lifestyle, branded casual clothing (especially if counterfeit), speech and/or mannerisms are perceived to be common, proletarian and vulgar. ‘Chav’ is often used as a stereotype to refer to white, poorly educated, aggressive youths, but youth and aggression are not the defining attributes of a ‘chav’. The term is similar to America’s ‘white trash’ stereotype.”

    I don’t know that I have a fully formulated thought as to whether the firings were appropriate or not. I’m a bit torn. Still, I’m always glad to help with the linguistics. 🙂

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