A Pennsylvania man lost both his job and opportunity at receiving unemployment benefits when he wrote a series of nasty messages against his co-workers on Twitter.
Stephen Burns was the comptroller at AO North America and tweeted that his work environment was "toxic" and that his co-workers were "morons," "dysfunctional," "psychotic," and "schizophrenic, reports Business Insider.
After finding out about the tweets, Burns was fired from his position. To add insult to injury, when Burns applied for unemployment benefits, he found that his nasty tweets made him ineligible for these benefits as well.
AO North America did not have a specific social media policy that applied to Twitter. However, the company did have a general policy regarding employee code of conduct. In that code, employees are expected to "treat each other with respect" and it's written that the "harassment of any kind to another employee, customer or vendor would not be tolerated."
The Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review denied Burns' application for unemployment benefits based on his violation of the company conduct policy. In Pennsylvania, someone is ineligible for unemployment benefits if that person loses his job as a result of willful misconduct connected to work. The board found that Burns' tweets qualified as willful misconduct. A court upheld the board's decision.
Workers today have to be especially conscious of what they say online, even if they make the statements during off-hours. Before the Internet, one could gripe and complain about work to a spouse or bartender. But when someone makes the same complaints on Facebook or Twitter, that person could find himself out of a job and without any rights to unemployment.
If you have recently lost your job, and you have questions about your eligibility to unemployment benefits, you may want to contact an employment attorney. Eligibility determinations are very fact specific, and a ruling against someone like Stephen Burns may have no bearing on your situation.