Would you fire an employee for something she posted on Facebook … back in high school?


Image Credit: By lil wayne (Youtube) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I know of one employer that did (allegedly)

[Cue music]

Fired for posting rap lyrics back in high school.

Over the weekend, I read this story from Jessi Turnure on ArkansasMatters.com in which Ms. Turnure reports that the Little Rock Police Department fired a 25-year-old recruit named Katina Jones.

Except, here’s the thing. According to Ms. Jones’s attorney, she was fired for posting a Lil Wayne lyric on Facebook back when she was in high school.


The story indicates that Ms. Jones had privacy settings on her Facebook account. Except, one of Ms. Jones’s co-workers had a friend of his access Ms. Jones’s Facebook page to find the incriminating post.

Who was this co-worker, you ask? It was another recruit whom the department previously fired for a social media violation.

That’s cold!

Ms. Turnure’s story also indicates that the Department has fired three recruits in the past two months for social media violations.

How many would respond in the same manner?

I get how a police department or other employer of individuals whose job it is to protect the public may go a little heavy on the social media scrutiny.

For the rest of you, consider taking a page out of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission‘s playbook. Almost six years ago, the EEOC released guidance on employer consideration of arrest and conviction records. The purpose of the guidance was to help employers avoid discrimination issues under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A violation may occur when an employer treats criminal history information differently for different applicants or employees, based on their race or national origin (disparate treatment liability).

The EEOC identified some factors that provide the starting point for analyzing how specific criminal conduct may be linked to particular positions:

  • The nature and gravity of the offense or conduct
  • The passage of time since the offense or conduct
  • The nature of the job sought

Now, let’s go back to the question I posted in the headline: “Would you fire an employee for something they posted on Facebook … back in high school?

We’re talking about a single post, maybe a decade or so ago. Assuming the person wasn’t convicted because of the Facebook post and you’re not interviewing to hire the next Supreme Court justice, that person probably deserves a pass for a momentary lapse in judgment. And, hopefully, that employee has added enough value to your organization in the interim to tip the scales in favor of keeping his or her job.

We didn’t have Facebook when I was in high school. But, we did have a yearbook. And, I probably wrote some questionable Snoop Dogg lyrics in a friend’s copy.

Ok, Backstreet Boys.



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