A Minnesota man lost his job after profane Facebook messages sent to Black Lives Matter were shared on social media.
Daily Haze has what appear to be screenshots of the message from a Facebook user named Brad Schultz, which includes the n-word as well as other profanities and says: "Just leave, white people don't like you."
The message was shared on the Facebook page of Threatwatch (which says its goal is to "call out violent rhetoric and threats" against activists) and proliferated from there. Users found someone with the same name who worked for Archer Daniels Midland in Mankato and began contacting the company.
About 90 minutes after the original message, another two were sent from the Brad Schultz account, asking that they delete his first message from their Facebook page and writing:
ADM Mankato responded on Twitter earlier this week, saying the company had finished its investigation into the social media comments. They also called the remarks "unacceptable" and not a reflection of ADM's values.
The employee "no longer works for ADM," the
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Can companies do that?
Not surprisingly, there isn't really a simple answer to this.
Forbes wrote about this in 2011, when the National Labor Relations Board put out a review of 14 cases involving social media posts and jobs. Whether an employee was lawfully fired depended a lot on whether the online posts were "protected concerted activities" – that is, conversation between employees about improving working conditions, Forbes says.
But those cases are mainly about employees criticizing the company they work for.
Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development talks about this in a workplace issues document, which discusses the issues surrounding privacy expectations and employer monitoring.
State law provides protections for employees' off-duty activities, and their expectation of privacy – things like intruding into personal or private matters can lead to a lawsuit, the document says.
There are some exceptions though, such as if an employee signs a contract that gives the company permission to monitor computers, phones or electronic messaging (think a work email account).
However, The Associated Press spoke with a law attorney who said the National Labor Relations Board will uphold firings if a post damages a company's reputation or its services.
The AP also wrote that if a post is "racist, homophobic, sexist or discriminate against a religion, companies should fire workers rather than be seen as tolerating or condoning the employees' views."
Huffington Post has a list of cases where employees were fired over social media posts.