discrimination

Gay worker claims Facebook 'like' got him fired

April 12, 2012 at 7:30 AM ET

A former management analyst at the Library of Congress is claiming he was fired after he "liked" a Facebook page for same-sex parents, an act he says led to his boss discovering he is gay. 

Peter TerVeer liked the “Two Dads” page on Facebook, a group that helps “promote the gay and lesbian community,” according to the page. 

When his manager, John Mech, discovered he was gay, TerVeer’s once-positive performance reviews turned negative, he alleges, and his boss started making derogatory statements about his sexual orientation, according to TerVeer's attorney Thomas Simeone.

Simeone would not comment on details of the case, but a Roll Call article published Tuesday said shortly after TerVeer liked the Two Dads page:

TerVeer said he started to receive emails from Mech that contained ‘religiously motivated harassment and discrimination.’ Mech then called him into a meeting for the purposes of ‘educating him on hell and that it awaited him for being a homosexual.’

TerVeer's therapist ordered him to take medical leave because of the stress, Simeone said. He was fired last week for missing 37 consecutive days of work.

A spokeswoman for the Library of Congress said she could not comment on personnel matters. But the Library released a statement saying, “Library of Congress employees, like all employees in the federal government, have protection against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Library employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination may avail themselves of an internal administrative process to address their equal employment opportunity complaints.”

TerVeer filed a claim with Library of Congress’ Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, Simeone said. The office has until mid-May to make a ruling. After that, TerVeer can take his case to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC spokeswoman Christine Nazer would not comment on the case.

Even though sexual orientation discrimination was part of the case, Simeone said his client will fight the termination based on religious bias. He said laws protecting workers against sexual orientation discrimination are limited and provide few, if any, remedies for compensating workers in cases like TerVeer's.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a wake-up call for employees who may not yet understand the extent to which their social media participation can impact their careers. The question of what’s private and what’s not on social networking sites is rearing its head in the workplace more often.

This month Maryland became the first state to ban the practice of asking for a job candidate or worker's social networking password; and Illinois is considering similar legislation, said Daniel Prywes, an employment attorney for Bryan Cave.  “The proposed bills would broadly prohibit employers from seeking access to private areas of social media accounts, with no exceptions for law enforcement or similar sensitive types of employment.”

Facebook has threatened to “take action to protect the privacy and security of our users” in cases where employers seek passwords.

While most companies don’t cyber snoop on workers and job candidates, it can be legal for your employer to mine your social media meandering and take adverse action against you for something on your Facebook or LinkedIn, as long as your employer doesn’t thwart discrimination laws or collective bargaining rights.

Discuss this issue on our Facebook page. But remember, your boss might be reading.

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