If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being terminated, be careful what comments you make on public forums, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other internet sites. Although it is human nature to vent about situations that are frustrating, unfair, and which cause us financial and emotional distress and fear, doing so online can have unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

Any comment made online is potentially available to your former employer and their attorneys, which could impact any claim you later make against your former employer for unemployment compensation, whistleblowing, or employment discrimination. Information disclosed on a public website is then available for use by any person or entity. For example, if you make a very negative, though truthful, comment online about your supervisor who communicated the decision to terminate you, the attorneys for your former employer will likely be able to find the comment and to introduce it into evidence in any proceeding that you initiate concerning your termination. Depending upon the nature of the comment and its context, what was said in anger may distort the real facts of the situation and/or undermine your credibility. It is far better to make no comments publicly until you have the chance to meet with an attorney to discuss your options following your termination. It is unlikely that your attorney will want you to make any public statements or comments for the reasons stated above.

A real example may shed further light on the potential negative consequences of venting publicly. A client participated in a meeting of colleagues at which she and others doing the work they did for a group of physicians were warned that unless significant improvement occurred, they would be terminated. Our client and others believed that they were being made the scapegoats for errors being made by the physicians. Their errors were the “elephant in the room” at the meeting that our client and her colleagues did not feel they could raise without further jeopardizing their jobs.

The night of the meeting, our client went online, found a cartoon with an elephant with a sword in its trunk, printed it, and put it on her supervisor’s desk the next morning without leaving a note. The supervisor considered it a threat, and after her investigation revealed that our client was the source of the cartoon, terminated her. It was an overreaction, and likely fueled by a desire to make an example of her, but was legal in a nonunion setting.

So, beware of venting in public! Consult with one of Hawks Quindel’s experienced employment attorneys before making any public statement or comment following a termination.

Katherine Charlton

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