Social Media Costs -- and Some Workers Are Paying With Their Jobs

A woman says she was fired from her job at Xerox for posting a photo on Instagram and using the company's name as a hashtag. It's just one example of how social media can cost employees their jobs, expose employers to lawsuits and sour the workplace with distrust.

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Thu, October 31, 2013

CIO — After 12 years on the job, DeMetra "Meech" Christopher says she was fired from Xerox's call center in Lexington, Ky., for posting a picture of herself at work on Instagram and hashtagging the company name.

Christopher says that other employees have posted pictures on Instagram, but management decided to fire her for identifying Xerox. Christopher says she has hired a privacy lawyer.

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DeMetra "Meech" Christopher says this post cost her job at Xerox.

Xerox declined to comment specifically about the case or even confirm Christopher ever worked for the company, but it did provide CIO.com with a copy of its social networking policy, albeit for employees who have social media responsibilities as part of their jobs. Xerox also has a strict policy about tech devices in the call center. Given the sensitive nature of data, including credit card numbers, the company says it does not allow personal phones, tablets (even paper ones) and cameras in the workplace.

The conflict between Christopher and Xerox underscores a much wider problem. An employee's personal use of social networks and a company's desire to protect its public image have created a dangerous new intersection that threatens to derail any goodwill built up over the years between employee and management. Employees tend to take the brunt of collisions, as Christopher recently found out.

The number of those crashes is growing. CNN put together a list of 10 people who learned social media can get you fired. Among them are these four examples:

  • Barista Matt Watson anonymously blogged about dealing with difficult customers, was outed by sprudge.com and fired for writing about his place of employment during work hours.
  • Tenth-grade math teacher Carly McKinney posted racy photos and tweets about marijuana. She was ultimately fired.
  • California Pizza Kitchen server Timothy DeLaGhetto claims he was fired for tweeting about the company's "lamest ever" new uniforms.
  • Perhaps most pertinent to CIO.com readers, two male software developers at a PyCon conference joked about "big dongles" and "forking" -- sexual innuendos with a tech twist -- overheard by SendGrid tech developer Adria Richards. She was offended, took a picture of them and tweeted it. One of the men was fired. Hackers exposed Richards' private information before she was fired for "publicly shaming the offenders," SendGrid CEO Jim Franklin wrote in a blog post.

It's not just the working-class portion of the organizational chart, either. CTO Pax Dickinson at Business Insider was fired in September for making racial slurs and rape jokes on Twitter. Also, CFO Gene Morphis at publicly traded fashion retailer Francesca's Holdings Corp. lost his job last year for casually tweeting about company information.

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