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Monday, December 30, 2013

Teacher Fired over Facebook Photo Could Get Job Back

From the Employer Handbook blog comes an interesting case involving the termination of a teacher for posting a photo of her boyfriend touching her chest on her Facebook page.  According to the story, the teacher appealed her termination, and the grievance board determined she should be reinstated, finding that the lack of a social media policy gave teachers very little guidance on the type of social media conduct that could get them in hot water. 

You can read the story here:  Teacher fired over Facebook groping photo could get her job back

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Student Social Media Passwords Protected Under New Law

On January 1, 2014, HB 64 becomes effective making it unlawful for an Illinois school to ask for a student's social media password.  There are a few exceptions to the ban that would allow access if the school has reasonable cause to believe the student's account includes evidence that the student has violated a school rule or disciplinary policy.  Schools are also allowed to monitor student activity on school equipment and enforce policies on use of school electronic equipment.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Florida Social Media Ethics Rules Challenged by Law Firm

A Florida law firm filed a lawsuit against the Florida Bar challenging the state attorney ethics rules. Specifically, the firm claims that recent amendments to the attorney advertising rules to now include social media sites violate the firm's First Amendment rights and are unconstitutionally vague.
In Searcy v. Florida Bar, the law firm of Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley claims that the new rules are overly restrictive as they require all statements on social media to be "objectively verifiable." The new rules became effective in May, after the Florida Supreme Court approved the amendments to the advertising rules that removed a previous website exemption from the advertising rules.
The law firm had recently been found in violation of the "objectively verifiable" rule for certain opinions and statements about the firm's services and past cases on its website. The Florida Bar also found the firm's LinkedIn profile in violation because the subjective opinion of a former client was not "objectively verifiable" and because the LinkedIn site automatically described the firm's practice areas as "specialties."
The law firm claims that the rules are too vague to apply, and it isn't clear what information is allowed and what information must be removed from its website and social media sites.  The law firm claims that under the new rules, even Abraham Lincoln would have been found in violation:
"Indeed, Florida's rules are so broad that they would have subjected Abraham Lincoln to discipline for stating, in an 1852 newspaper advertisement, that his firm handled business with 'promptness and fidelity' — two words that are no more 'objectively verifiable' than those the Bar concludes violate its ethics rules here."
Although the case is challenging Florida's attorney ethics rules, it is a case worth watching by lawyers and law firms across the country.  This blog has raised questions about how LinkedIn's specialty and endorsement features might trigger compliance issues with attorney ethics rules, including advertising and certification restrictions, and the New York bar has already weighed in on this issue, finding that law firms could not list specialties on its LinkedIn profile.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Officer's Termination for Facebook Venting Upheld

A federal judge has ruled against a former police officer who sued the City of Greenville, claiming that City officials violated her free speech rights by firing her over comments posted on Facebook. Grazios v. City of Greenville.   The officer's comments criticized Police Chief Cannon's decision not to send representatives from Greenville's police department to the funeral of an officer who was killed in the line of duty earlier that month.
She posted her comments to both her personal Facebook page and the Mayor's campaign page. Her Facebook postings included the following:
"I just found out that Greenville Police Department did not send a representative to the funeral of Pearl Police Officer Mike Walter, who was killed in the line of duty on May 1, 2012. This is totally unacceptable. I don’t want to hear about the price of gas–officers would have gladly paid for and driven their own vehicles had we known the city was in such dire straights (sic) as to not to be able to afford a trip to Pearl, Ms., which, by the way, is where our police academy is located. The last I heard was the chief was telling the assistant chief about getting a group of officers to go to the funeral. Dear Mayor, can we please get a leader that understands that a department sends officers of (sic) the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty? Thank you. Susan Graziosi."
"Dear Mayor, can we please get a leader that understands that a department sends officers (to) the funeral of an officer killed in the line of duty?"

She was fired for violations of discipline and accountability, insubordination and rules of conduct, as laid out in Greenville Police Department's policy and procedure manual.
The district court judge first considered whether the officer spoke as a citizen on a matter of public concern, requiring two separate questions: (1) was the subject of her speech a matter of public concern and (2) did she speak as a citizen rather than an employee. In this case, the judge ruled that the officer's comments were "made from her perspective as a disgruntled police officer, not a concerned citizen."
According to the judge, the officer "did not speak out about any issue that related to the public safety or trust they had in the GPD but rather an internal decision of the department." As a result, the officer's comments were not afforded First Amendment protection, and her retaliation claim was dismissed.


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