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Revenge Of The Terminated: Why "Spiking The Ball" On Social Media Is A Bad And Costly Idea

By Jack McCalmon, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

A jury awarded Wayne Clark, a former golf pro for the Hidden Valley Lake Association, two million dollars because of defamatory Facebook posts.

The Association's general manager, Cindy Spears, terminated Clark. After the termination, posts were made on the golf course's Facebook page by a member. The member claimed she was being fed information about Clark from a "Little Birdie". The "Little Birdie", according to the human resource director was Spears.

One post expresses the vile nature of the posts:

Just imagine that the computer [Clark's] is examined, and is found to be filled with young, nubile, naughty stuff of indeterminate age…In that case, normally law enforcement is called to determine if there are a bunch of felonies on [Clark's] computer. 

In addition to insinuating that Clark had child pornography on his computer, the posts also stated that there were "open bottles of alcohol" in the office along with a "roll of toilet paper".

Clark's successful lawsuit was based on defamation; invasion of privacy; painting him in false light; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Testimony confirmed that the posts were either false or misleading. Lori Armstrong "Former HVL golf pro awarded $2 million in damages".  www.record-bee.com (Feb. 27, 2018).

Involuntary termination affects the terminated employee and his or her family, both emotionally and financially. For that reason, most employment practice litigation stems from a termination.

In the 2017 fiscal year report of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, dismissal from employment was the managerial action most complainants cited for the reason they brought an employment practice charge. Whenever you decide to terminate someone, you take a risk.

It is important for a manager or supervisor to realize that no matter how he or she feels about the person discharged, ethically and professionally, a manager should never "spike the ball", even if the person terminated is making comments about the manager or the organization.

The fact is that hateful comments made by a terminated employee are expected, but hateful comments made by managers and supervisors are not.

In this matter, the manager was feeding information to the golf member on the false belief that would shield her from discovery or liability. Her actions not only hurt the ex-employee, but it cost her employer, and it eventually cost her because she is no longer employed at the golf course.

Finally, if you post it, you own it. Our freedom allows us to post, but there is often a heavy price to pay for posting untrue and damaging material about someone, especially employees, ex-employees, customers, and other workplace participants.  

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