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Social media, social comments, salary no more for DPW worker

Employment laws are written to cover broad situations. For example, federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against or harassing an individual based on their gender, and it would be considered a wrongful termination if an employee was fired for this reason. The law is clear on that, but what isn’t always clear is proving that the termination was based on sex or what actions fall under the definition of “harassment.”

Social media has created a whole new conversation in the employment arena over what restrictions or limitations an employer can include in a social media use policy. A Maplewood Department of Publics Works employee was recently fired, but it was the timing that has some wondering whether the reason involves statements made on the popular social media site Facebook.

It all started with a music festival that was held in the city and had spanned two days. Residents and visitors came and went, and the worker had strong opinions about the garbage that they left behind. He posted that “liberals who attend these shows and rant and rave about ‘green living’” were to blame for the unsanitary mess. He also made disparaging remarks about sexual orientation and politics.

The public worker had been with the department for years, but was recently fired only days after making the controversial statements on his profile.

While some of these statements would be considered crossing the line of political correctness or social acceptance, should they be considered free speech? Was company property used? Does a termination based on these comments alone cross the line?

Employment situations are not always clear. If a worker in New Jersey even suspects that an employment action was taken in violation of an employee’s rights or applicable labor laws, the worker should discuss the situation with an attorney who can help find a solution.

Source: nj.com, “Maplewood DPW worker fired after Facebook comments spark fury, officials mum on reason,” Eunice Lee, July 30, 2013

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