November 13, 2012
I’m sure most of you by now have heard about the uproar surrounding an offensive and racist status posted on Facebook by a Statesboro woman, who was employed by a local doctor’s office, following the re-election of President Barack Obama Tuesday evening. (Click here
to read the entire story.)
The woman’s comments, along with her profile photo, quickly went viral. Emails and phone calls flooded news outlets Wednesday. Later that day, the family medical practice for which the woman worked issued a statement in response to its employee’s actions, making clear that the woman’s statements were her personal opinion and do not reflect those of the clinic. Soon, an office manager of the practice confirmed that the woman was no longer employed at the clinic.
While many condemned the woman’s comments and were pleased to learn she's no longer employed by the local medical practice, some defended her statements as protected by the First Amendment, suggesting that if she was in fact terminated, she had grounds to bring suit against the practice. Simply put, these people are incorrect.
Although it’s true that Americans are free to say anything, it doesn’t mean they are free from the consequences and criticisms that come with that right. Further, in a right-to-work state such as Georgia, private businesses have wide latitude in their ability to terminate employees — not including cases of employee discrimination based on such reasons as race or ethnicity, religion, gender, age or disability status — and they’re not required to provide much justification for doing so.
The bottom line is that regardless of the time or place, if an employee does or says things that could potentially negatively affect his or her employer’s business, that employer has the right to send the employee packing.
I know types of views like this woman’s are not exclusive to her or this community — the comments in response to her post alone are proof of that — but for goodness sake, y’all, please
, use some common sense before airing out your controversial dirty laundry in a very public social media forum!
I’m willing to bet that if this woman could have glimpsed into the future to see the consequences her comments would send raining down on her less than 24 hours later — the loss of her job, multiple death threats against her and her children/family, countless friends and community members turning their backs on her — she would’ve decided it wasn’t worth it.
Thankfully, instead of allowing that woman’s mistakes to tear us apart, as a community, we have the opportunity to learn from them, just as I sincerely hope she has. Next time you’re tempted to post some unfiltered and potentially offensive comments to your social media account, pause for a moment and remember this:
• Not everyone will get your jokes or appreciate your sarcasm.
What you think is funny often is entirely different from what others consider funny. In fact, your “cleverness” oftentimes may be interpreted by others as offensive, derogatory or hateful.
• Social media is not your own personal counselor or diary.
Even if your Facebook or Twitter posts are only viewable by your friends, anything you post can easily take on a life of its own. Private messages on social networking sites aren’t really private — they’re discoverable in court and may be obtained legally in investigations, if you’re wondering — and complaints, accusations or otherwise negative or overly personal comments can quickly cast you in a not-so-flattering light. Also, remember that simply deleting posts doesn’t ensure they’re gone forever; it’s best to never post them at all.
• Remember your audience.
Are you friends with your mother or baby sister on Facebook? Your pastor? A past teacher or coworker? Play it safe; if you would be ashamed to write it on a placard and hang it around your neck for everyone to read, you shouldn’t be posting it anywhere. Period. Linsay Cheney is the editor of Connect Statesboro. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.