OK, we’ll admit it. We like rubbernecking at the collision of social media and the law as much as the next law news provider.
But we’re not in it for the shock value. Rather, we find it fascinating how social media is redefining the way we interpret privacy, free speech, employee and employer rights, and more.
Case – well, actually, cases – in point:
1. Student claims school district invaded her rights by posting an image found on Facebook:
“[T]he plaintiff was a minor student who sued a school district under various statutory and Constitutional provisions after the district publicly shared an image of plaintiff to the community in a presentation on ‘Internet safety.’ Specifically, after an image of the plaintiff in a bikini was featured in the presentation immediately subsequent to an image allegedly depicting promiscuity and alcohol abuse, the plaintiff sued the district for invading her rights to avoid unreasonable searches and seizures pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. Use of social network becomes relevant in the case because the school official who produced the presentation had found the image through searching the plaintiff’s Facebook friends.” (Richard Raysman at Holland & Knight)
2. Sam’s Club supervisor fired after calling out dishonest subordinates on Facebook:
“Virginia Rodriquez was a manager at a Sam’s Club store in Texas. She was on a performance-improvement plan, meaning a disciplinary plan where any further policy violation would result in her termination. While on this plan, she viewed pictures of co-workers at a July 4th party that were posted on Facebook. Those same co-workers had called in sick to work that day. In response, she posted comments on the Facebook page of one of the offending employees in which she identified all of the employees by name and criticized them for falsifying the reason for their absence. One of the employees notified the human resource manager, who counseled Rodriquez for not dealing with the situation face-to-face and for violating the company’s social media policy, which barred ‘post(ing) complaints or criticism … in a way that is unprofessional, insulting, embarrassing, untrue (or) harmful …’ The company found that she should have waited for the associates to return to work to discuss her attendance concerns.” (Tim Carney at GableGotwals)
3. Southwest Airlines agent sues a passenger over angry social media posts:
“The case involves a decision by an operations agent for Southwest Airlines to sue a passenger for slander, defamation, libel and false light invasion of privacy after the latter unleashed a fusillade of complaints about the conduct of the agent via her Twitter and Facebook accounts. The passenger’s complaints were prompted by the refusal of the agent to permit the passenger to board alongside her children. On social media, the passenger alleged that it was the fourth time the agent had refused to permit her children to board alongside, and that the agent has ‘the WORST customer service.’” (Richard Raysman at Holland & Knight)
4. Virginia sheriff fired six workers for “liking” his opponent in the county election:
“Sheriff in Hampton, Virginia … fired six of his workers when one of them ‘liked’ the Facebook page of an individual running for election against the Sheriff. The employees sued, and the federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the lawsuit. That judge ruled that the employees were not entitled to free speech protection, finding: ‘It is the Court’s conclusion that merely “liking” a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.’ Fast forward a year and a half, and the appellate court has just reversed that decision, allowing the lawsuit to proceed again. The 81-page decision is a great example of how social media and technology has really impacted traditional notions of employment law, such as retaliation and employee free speech.” (Michael Schmidt at Cozen O’Connor)
5. New Jersey nurse fired after her employer looks at her private Facebook posts:
“The plaintiff, who had been hired by [Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC)] as a registered nurse and paramedic, maintained a Facebook account, and her privacy settings enabled only her ‘friends’ to view her wall posts. These ‘friends’ included some of her co-workers, but no managers. One co-worker, on his own initiative, began to take screenshots of the plaintiff’s wall posts and send them to MONOC managers without her knowing. On June 8, 2009, the plaintiff posted a Facebook comment that implied that the paramedics who responded to a shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., should have let the gunman die. This post was sent to MONOC managers, who then temporarily suspended the plaintiff with pay and sent her a memorandum expressing their concern that her post reflected ‘deliberate disregard for patient safety.’ The plaintiff was later terminated for failing to return to work after a leave.” (Ballard Spahr)
Bonus for reading this far: no lawsuit – yet – but stay tuned…
“An undercover investigator with a large number of confidential informants attempted to break up a drug ring in his city. […] However, his informants could only provide nicknames and unsubstantiated claims that the identified suspects were gang members — there was still no convincing independent evidence of gang membership. That is, until Facebook came along. In a burst of creative stupidity, the suspects got together and launched a Facebook page with profiles that included their street names and real names. They also posted candid pictures of the members throwing gang signs, exposing gang tattoos and dressed in their ‘colors’ while posing with guns and drugs. They even obliged law enforcement by naming their page after their gang to remove any semblance of doubt.” (Derek Byrd at The Byrd Law Firm)
- Facebook User Voluntarily Shared Image; Cannot Claim “Reasonable Expectation of Privacy” under Fourth Amendment - Holland & Knight LLP
- The Social Media Merry-Go-Round – GableGotwals
- Angry Facebook Posts and Tweets by Passenger about an Airport Employee Considered Expression of Frustration and Therefore not Defamatory - Holland & Knight LLP
- What’s Not To Like About Protected Speech? - Cozen O’Connor
- Non-Public Facebook Posts Protected by Stored Communications Act, N.J. District Court Holds - Ballard Spahr LLP
- Social Media And Self-Incrimination - The Byrd Law Firm, P.A.
Read more on Social Media at JD Supra Law News»