Noah Kravitz who worked at PhoneDog, a website that reviewed mobile gadgets, was just sued by his former employer for switching his professional Twitter account into a personal one when he left his job, hence flipping his 17,000 Twitter followers to his personal account. According to PhoneDog, Noah’s followers are worth $42,500 a month. Therefore, the company is asking for damages equal to $2.50 per month per Twitter follower taken by Noah Kravitz.
Noah Kravitz’s case is one example among others. In many other cases, an employee uses his employer’s account in a social network to post negative comments about his employer. Such behavior usually has significant consequences, both for the employer and the employee who wrote the post. The post damages the company’s reputation and the employee may be terminated. For instance, an employee at Chrysler Motors who twitted from his employee’s account that he found “it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive” was terminated. Such post can cause great damage to the company’s reputation.
In order to prevent their employees to damage their image, some companies have adopted strict social-media policies. For example, CNN forbids its employees to post anything online that does not meet editorial standards or has not been approved as reportable on CNN platforms. However, such protective policies may not be efficient if too broad for they sometimes unconstitutionally infringe on freedom of speech. Indeed, last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supported the case of an ambulance driver who had been fired for breaching her company’s policy which prohibited negative comments by the company’s employees on Facebook. The NLRB filed a complaint for unfair labor practices and the case was later settled.
The line is thin between freedom of speech and wrongful behavior, and the balance is difficult to find. Surely, labor issues related to social-media are going to increase exponentially in the future.