Thursday, February 17, 2011

WorkPlace 101: Fired For Having A Beer On Facebook.

Teaching. It's probably the most important job one can take on, yet at the same time, one of the most taken-for-granted professions there is. Between unruly kids, disrespectful parents, and bullying overweight governors, teachers just get no respect, in addition to not really making much money. Still, as maligned as they are, they provide a service which keeps communities afloat.

That said, as much as a admire teachers, much like soldiers, theirs is a job I could never do. Why? Because you have to deal with nonsense like this.
With a pint of beer in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, the worst thing you could accuse Ashley Payne of is mixing her drink. But this happy holiday picture has cost the high school teacher her job after a parent spotted it on Facebook - and complained. The picture was taken while travelling around Europe in the summer of 2009.

But Miss Payne, 24, was shocked when she was summoned to the principal's office at Apalachee High School, in Winder, Georgia, and offered an ultimatum. She told CBS News: 'He just asked me, "Do you have a Facebook page?" 'And you know, I'm confused as to why I am being asked this, but I said, "Yes", and he said, "Do you have any pictures of yourself up there with alcohol?"' School officials also took offence to the use of the B-word on the page.

He then offered her an option: resign or be suspended. She chose to resign.

Miss Payne is now in a bitter legal battle with the school to get her job back.

The English teacher later found out it was one anonymous emailer who shopped her to the school board after seeing the picture on the social networking site.

But she is baffled how a parent could gain access to her page when she has all her privacy settings on 'high', meaning only her closest friends have permission to see her pictures.

She admits putting the 'offensive' pictures on Facebook but says she now feels as if she had stashed them in a shoebox at home for them to be stolen and showed to the principal.

Court documents reveal that officials warned teachers about 'unacceptable online activities'. They claimed her page 'promoted alcohol use' and 'contained profanity'.

She now wants to clear her name and claim back her job.
BTW, there's a great story from CBS News about this on YouTube, but since they're being total d*cks (as usual), I can't embed it here.

Lets not be be naive here. Yes, people get fired all the time for "objectionable behavior" over social media. That's not really anything new. Still, just how objectionable is holding two alcoholic beverages? And it's not like Mrs. Payne had the photos in full view. She supposedly had her privacy settings on "high", whatever the heck that means. As you can tell, I'm hardly Mr. Facebook. I am, however, Mr. Common Sense. And common sense would dictate that there's more to this story. Mrs. Payne was on The Alan Colmes Show the other night and indicated that this is a very conservative school district. Seems like an influential parent with an axe to grind was out to get her, and get her they did.

I suppose if there's any lesson here, it's to be really, really careful who you Friend.

Question: Does this teacher have a legitimate lawsuit, or is this simply frivolous? Does your employer have a policy on social media use? Are there some things you simply wont post online for fear of losing your Day Job? Does this infringe on your right to free speech, or does your employer have a reputation to protect at all costs?

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