Should Complaining About Work on Social Media Be a Fireable Offense?

A federal agency has ruled that two trash-talking employees fired by a Connecticut bar and grill in 2011 must be rehired by owners no later than this Friday.

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By Geoff Weiss • Sep 3, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While trashing your employer on social media may sound like a recipe for disaster, a national labor agency has just ruled that it is not necessarily a fireable offense.

Back in 2011, after an irritated former staffer of the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Conn. complained about the company on Facebook, two current colleagues chimed in. Because of their engagement in the trash-talking conversation, both were unceremoniously canned.

The negative chatter centered around a former employee's allegations that she was owed money after a tax withholding error for which Triple Play was allegedly at fault. When Jillian Sanzone also said she was owed cash and called the establishment's owner "such an asshole" and Thomas Spinella "liked" the initial post, owners told them they were being dismissed for "lack of loyalty," according to CNN.

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But now -- three years later -- the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is charged with safeguarding employee rights, has ruled that Triple Play must rehire the former staffers by Friday. That's because the organization ultimately decided that the employees were "simply acting collectively to discuss a workplace issue, which is protected under the National Labor Relations Act," CNN reports.

While commiserating about a legitimate issue may be well within employee rights, lawyers for Triple Play counter that such expression holds amplifying ramifications in the realm of social media, where personal matters are frequently broadcast to widespread masses. Triple Play is appealing the ruling.

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Though Connecticut, like most states, is an at-will state -- meaning employers can terminate employees without notice and without necessarily providing a reason -- the NLRB does offer protections for "certain work-related conversations conducted on social media."

Nevertheless, some experts agree that complaining about bosses -- both past and present -- not only spawns toxicity but also reflects poorly upon one's own repute. Check out digital-media marketing expert Sandi Krakowski's thoughts, for instance, about how powerful social tools can be harnessed in new ways to spread "good news" rather than as an exponential feast upon negativity.

While the NLRB has concluded that the Triple Play employees should be allowed to commiserate on social media, do you agree with its ruling? Let us know in the comments below.

Related: 3 Personality Types That Can Harm Your Business

Geoff Weiss

Former Staff Writer

Geoff Weiss is a former staff writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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