Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Employee disloyalty and Facebook

facebookevilDan Leone was a lifelong fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. One could  only imagine that when his favorite team hired him as a game-day stadium employee, it was his dream job. Last week, the Denver Broncos signed free agent safety Brian Dawkins, the team’s emotional leader and one of the franchise’s historical great players. Upset with the Eagles’s decision not to resign Dawkins, Leone chose to vent on his Facebook page, updating his status: “Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver. . .Dam Eagles R Retarted!!"

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the team’s termination of Leone:

Less than two days after posting the Dawkins remarks, Leone said, he was contacted by Leonard Bonacci, the team's director of event operations. According to Leone, Bonacci said they needed to talk about Leone's Facebook page, and Leone agreed. Leone - who deleted the comment - figured that the two would sit down and that he could apologize to Bonacci in person. But Leone said Bonacci never got back to him after that.

Two days later, Leone said, he received a call from Rachel Vitagliano, the team's guest services manager. Leone said she fired him over the phone. The conversation lasted less than 10 minutes.

No warning. No suspension. No face-to-face meeting. Just a quick call to tell Leone he'd been terminated.

All over the Internet, the Eagles are taking a beating for Leone’s. For example, according to an ESPN.com poll, 80.5% believe the Eagles were not justified in firing Leone.

Let me take the other side. It may seem heavy-handed for the Eagles to take a stand against a part-time seasonal employee. If an employer wants to effectively enforce policy, it has to do so across the board. The Eagles are sending the message that it will not tolerate its employees publicly making negative statements about the organization. While some will consider it unfair for this message to be sent at Leone’s expense, this employer will be better served the next time, when it is a high level front office employee instead of a part-time stadium employee. In employment law, consistency is key, and to be consistent, someone always has to be first.

Do you know? will return tomorrow, with a post on banning guns inside and outside the workplace.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.