Friday, March 1st, 2013

'Like' it or not

Selective protection for social media

By Eric Adams

Social media sites have connected over a billion people around the world, but so. . .

Employees losing their jobs over controversial social media activity is becoming more common in our increasingly connected world.
These cases have brought the old question of constitutionally-protected speech to the foreground and introduced a new question of privacy.
Celina attorney Matt Gilmore has yet to represent any clients in a social media case but said that, to his knowledge, "whistle-blowing" is the only accusatory speech that grants workers absolute legal protection. That type of speech includes any instance where an employee accurately indicts his or her employer or coworker for illegal practices on the job.
Gilmore disagrees with the frequent portrayal of Facebook-related firings as First Amendment violations.
"The First Amendment grants the right of speaking out against the government, but if it's an employee going on Facebook and saying (profane insults), that's the balancing act," Gilmore said. "You can say it all you want, but they don't have to continue employing you.
"It's probably going to be a lot like determining what pornography is," Gilmore added. "It's in the eye of the beholder."
Carolyn Davis handles a large volume of social media cases as an attorney at Bugbee & Conkle, a Toledo law firm. She also has spoken at many seminars in the Lima area, advising employers on company policies.
Davis described social media legislation as a "slippery slope," saying that whenever a concrete policy is developed, it becomes stale within about two months.
According to Davis, "consorted activity" is one key to legal protection.
She illustrated the hypothetical of an employee asking an open-ended question online such as "who has had problems with (supervisor X) regarding overtime?"
"It's saying (your message) to an audience that matters," Davis said. "This is definitely a growing trend among the new generation; we don't go next door and talk about problems; we get online."
Facebook controversies range in scale from Denise Helms, a 22-year-old Coldstone Creamery employee who lost her job after she called for the president's assassination on Facebook, to Debe Terhar, the state school board president who nearly lost her job for "reposting" a picture that compared Obama to Hitler.
Molli Schleucher, another Celina attorney, called Facebook postings "an extension" of letters to the editor and other mediums where people previously expressed public grievances.
"It's all freedom of speech, but we have to be responsible for that," she said.
Schleucher said the "instant satisfaction" of immediate feedback is probably why so many people freely express their opinions online.
Davis urged companies who have not yet formed a social media policy to do so immediately.
"The more individualized (your policy), the greater the chance of it being upheld," she said.
She cited a recent case in which a business hired someone to run its Twitter account. The employee, when fired, began using the company account to spread fallacious messages.
The company won a lawsuit against the employee, but Davis said they could have saved court costs and time with a policy that declared themselves as owners of the account.
Davis also remarked that using company computers for personal social media activity is not only unproductive, but it's also dangerous because viruses can easily be contracted.
Several area companies were contacted regarding their social media policies, however, all declined to comment.
Since the company's inception in 2004, Facebook has increased its number of full-time employees from 450 to more than 3,500. The number of people who have lost their jobs via the social media giant remains undocumented.
Additional online stories on this date
CELINA - Winners of the Celina-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce awards shown brightly Thursday night, despite the dim lighting at the start of the evening. [More]
Division IV District at St. Marys
ST. MARYS - It will be an all-Midwest Athletic Conference district final on Saturday as Marion Local and Minster both shrugged off big challenges on Thursday to earn semifinal wins at the Division IV district tournament at Murotech Court in St. Marys. [More]
Subscriber and paid stories on this date
CELINA - Antipoverty organization Sources has a new interim executive director to lead board members in their quest to revitalize the beleaguered agency currently under review by the state.
Community Hospital
COLDWATER - The Mercer Health Board of Governors on Wednesday night heard concerns from 25-year employee Marv Bruns regarding a $20,000 performance bonus awarded to former Mercer County Community Hospital CEO Paula Detterman.
State test shows algae toxins not problem
GRAND LAKE - This year's statewide fish consumption report released Thursday confirms the fish in Grand Lake continue to be safe to eat.
The presence of algae toxins in the lake the last four summers have caused some to question the safety of the lake's fish.
CELINA - Mercer County Commissioners on Thursday joined Celina schools and Jefferson Township in approving a 100 percent, 15-year property tax exemption for Ferguson Enterprises.
WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart for the first time will take out a loan to pay for county bridgework.
Reinhart applied for a ne
The local war on drugs continued Thursday as law enforcement officers rounded up seven people indicted on charges stemming from a Grand Lake Task Force investigation.
A 52-year-old Mercer County man pleaded no contest Wednesday in Celina Municipal Court to charges he exposed himself to others.
Terry M. Shaffer, w
A 50-year-old Minster woman was killed after her SUV left the roadway and struck a tree near state Route 66 on Thursday afternoon.
Pronounced dead at the scene was Ina Smith. She initially was trapped in her 1990 Jeep Cherokee and was extricated by Jaws of Life rescue equipment.
Division II District at Paulding
PAULDING - Celina's girls basketball team hasn't faced much adversity over the last couple of months, but they certainly got a taste of it on Thursday night.
All-Western Buckeye League Girls Basketball
Compiled by Ryan Hines
Lima Bath's girls basketball team won at least a share of the Western Buckeye League championship for the third straight year and the Wildkittens swept the top two league honors for the second straight season.
All-Western Buckeye League Boys Basketball
Compiled by Ryan Hines
Bath's Doug Davis and Elida's Denny Thompson shared the Western Buckeye League's Coach of the Year honor as the Wildcats and Bulldogs shared the league championship, but one individual stood above the rest to earn WBL Player of the Year honors.
Compiled by Gary R. Rasberry
Coldwater's Justin Post had a short, but successful first day of competition at the Division III State Wrestling Championships on Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
PAULDING - Revenge is a great motivational tool when it comes to athletics, and Celina's girls basketball team is certainly looking for some against Bath on Saturday night.