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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Plaintiff's Termination for Facebook Post Upheld

After an employee was fired from his job as a teacher's aide at a preschool center, he sued claiming that the center violated his civil rights by discriminating against him because he was male and for defamation.  The center claims the plaintiff was fired because of derogatory comments he posted on his Facebook page about a family situation (his boss at the center was also his mother).  The district court ruled in favor of the center, finding that plaintiff did not provide any evidence that the firing was a pretext for discrimination.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the ruling in favor of the employer.  Smizer v. Community Mennonite Early Learning Center (7th Cir. Oct. 25, 2013)(unpublished opinion).
Although the decision was not published, it provides some guidance to employers who may be hesitant to take any action with respect to social media activities because an employee can simply deny having posted a particular comment.  In this case, the center could not provide actual evidence of the social media posting; nevertheless, the court found that the employer believed that the plaintiff wrote the post, providing the center with a legitimate basis for the firing.  The court concluded that plaintiff did not carry his burden to show that the purported reason for this firing (the Facebook post) was a pretext for gender discrimination.
Hat tip to Employment Law Matters for reporting on this case.

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