A Dallas Police Department officer has been placed under investigation for messages posted on her Facebook status and pictures that she posted. According to the Dallas Morning News and TV-Station WFAA, the postings raise questions about the officer’s ability to serve and protect.
The postings include bragging about getting in a fight with a nurse at a local hospital and admitting to taking part in harassing the homeless.
Deputy Chief Mike Genovesi stated that he has seen a number of the postings and they do “raise serious concerns.” The Dallas Police Department had recently put a social media policy in place that, according to Genovesi, is very specific about the material that can be posted on social media. “Anything that would tend to reduce or impair the public’s trust and confidence in the police department won’t be tolerated.” Many officers disagree with the policy, staring that their Facebook pages are personal and should not be under control by the DPD.
This is not the first time an employee has come under fire with their Facebook pages but usually there seems to be some wiggle room in the opinion of the public. Ashley Payne, a school teacher in Atlanta, claims she was pressured to resign after a parent sent a letter to the district, expressing concern over pictures of Payne on vacation in Europe holding alcoholic beverages.
While it is important to be mindful of your image on any public forum, Payne says she doesn’t friend students and that her page is private. At the time, Payne was of legal drinking age and not on a school function. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission ruled over the case and found there to be no reason for sanctions against Payne.
An EMT from Connecticut recently reached a settlement on what would have been a ground breaking legal case over grievances she posted on her Facebook page against her boss. Dawnmarie Souza’s comments in her feed and with other co-workers earned her a dismissal from her job, and the support of the National Labor Relations Board. Acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, states, “The point is that employees have protection under the law to talk about each other about conditions at work.”
While the three cases are similar – there is one glaring difference. The Dallas Police Officer in question had been sworn to “protect and serve” the public of the city. The question becomes not if you should talk about your job on a public forum, but if you can truly be able to honor such an oath when you obviously have such strong feelings. Imagine a doctor who updates their Facebook feed or Twitter with negative comments about his patients – he could be giving them the absolute best care possible, but would you trust him?
The legalities of dismissing an employee over their Facebook updates and Twitter status are still pending and there is no real precedence to cases like the EMT in Connecticut – but the simple fact is to know if your company has a social media policy and what the regulations are. What do you think? Does an employer have the right to fire you based off your social media updates?