Labor and Employment Law

Court Denies Reinstatement to Teacher Fired for Facebook Posts

Ashley Payne resigned from her job as a teacher at Apalachee High School after the school received a complaint about pictures Payne had posted on her Facebook page. The pictures were a long way away from the type of risqué photographs we normally expect to see in a typical "Facebook firing."

The picture showed Payne smiling while holding what appear to be two glasses and a bottle--which, it was presumed, were alcoholic drinks. Payne was on a trip in Europe when the photo was taken.

Payne claims that she was pressured by school administrators to resign after they received an email complaint about the picture. It's unclear from the news reports whether the complaint was made by a parent or whether Payne's Facebook profile was public at the time of the complaint.

Payne subsequently filed suit, claiming that her due-process rights were denied because she was not given an opportunity for a hearing. But her case sat on the docket for nearly two years before the court ruled on her motion. The motion was denied earlier this month, which came as no surprise to Payne or her lawyer. Due to the length of the delay, it was highly unlikely that a court would order that she be reinstated. Payne filed an amended complaint on October 10, in which she seeks monetary damages.

The lesson to be learned for employers from this case is a familiar one--plan ahead for social-media snafus. And the best way to plan ahead is through education. These days, I'm doing quite a bit of training for managers on the potential hazards of social media. These trainings are an incredible way to get managers thinking about what does and does not really matter when it comes to what employees are doing online--and about the potential consequences of what they do online.

Read more Labor and Employment Law insights from Margaret (Molly) DiBianca in the Delaware Employment Law Blog.  Ms. DiBianca is an attorney with Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, LLP.

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