Facebook Inc. (FB) Can Lead to Employment Dismissal?

Facebook Inc.Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) can be a tool for communication and collaboration among friends all over the world, but it can also been a tool for employers to have an excuse to fire employees, at least in South Africa. Whether this is a sign of a trend worldwide remains to be seen, but it could be at the very least a warning for those in the United States who insist on writing something not-so-flattering about their boss or employer on a Facebook page.

Investors in Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), including billionaire fund manager George Soros of Soros Fund Management, are certainly aware of the privacy and free-expression issues that Facebook seems to present with its open communication channels, but whether this will affect user traffic on the site will certainly be something to watch. It might take a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to affect behavior, at least in this country.

There have been cases in South Africa where employees have been fired just after posting derogatory comments about employers on Facebook inc. (NASDAQ:FB) pages, though some recent rulings have warned employers not to use a Facebook posting as a reason to “downsize” the workforce. This comes from a statement made by a representative of a corporate law firm in Cape Town, South Africa, who commented on a recent run of dismissals cases fielded by the country’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Rosalind Davey of law firm Bowman Gilfillan, said that several commission rulings have given some employers some basis for firing users of Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) who post negative comments about employers, but there has been no clear distinction as to where employees have privacy rights and rights to speak freely. “The extent to which an individual’s privacy is protected when misusing social media platforms would be more clearly established by a High Court test case,” Davey said. “Similarly we would love to establish the extent to which John Doe’s employer is entitled to intercept his online communications, and most of all, which one of these scenarios trumps the other. Until then, it is interesting that CCMA commissioners have been inclined to confirm the dismissal of employees who have made derogatory comments online about their employers on the basis that, in these circumstances, an employee’s right to privacy may be limited or even forfeited.”

How far do you think the freedom of expression goes when it comes to social media like Facebook?