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5 Peculiar Facebook-Related Firings: Will the Facebook IPO Change How We View Free Speech Online?

This morning, the media is abuzz with news of the Facebook IPO. While most stories center on the price of a Facebook share ($42.05) or when it opened for NASDAQ trading (around 11:30 a.m. Eastern), at PayScale, we're more focused on the many Facebook-related firings that have occurred as the social networking site has exploded in popularity. Read on for some of the unusual terminations that resulted from employees' Facebook posts.

  1. In 2009, a local sheriff in Virginia fired six of his workers due to poor performance. The workers say they were terminated because they supported the sheriff's political opponent -- one employee even liked the candidate's Facebook page -- and sued the sheriff for infringing on their First Amendment rights to free speech.
  2. Earlier this month, the chief financial officer of Francesca's Holdings Corp. was terminated for posting company information, including updates on company earnings calls and investor calls, on his social media profiles.
  3. Thirteen Virgin Atlantic flight crew members were fired from their posts in 2008 when an investigation revealed that they'd posted multiple Facebook status messages about the poor state of the airline's fleet.
  4. A Sydney construction management company worker was fired in 2009 after posting on her friend's Facebook wall that her employer "sucks."
  5. A Library of Congress worker alleges that he was fired after he liked the Facebook page for Two Dads, which advocates gay adoption of children. The 30-year-old indicated that his work environment became hostile after supervisors learned of his sexual orientation, which happened after the employee became Facebook friends with his supervisor's daughter.

Does a Facebook like fall under free speech, which is protected by the First Amendment? Currently, no: in the Virginia case above, a judge ruled that since clicking a button doesn't constitute an actual statement, it can't be considered speech. Do you think the Facebook IPO will catalyze legislators and judges to reconsider how actions on the social networking site should be interpreted from a legal standpoint?

More From Payscale

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(Photo credit: birgerking/Flickr)

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