First Federal Court Decision to Uphold "Termination" Based on MySpace Content Rejects First Amendment Claim of the "Drunken Pirate"

The fundamental problem with Snyder’s case from a dynamic perspective was her failure to heed the university’s and Reinking’s warnings about social networking. The court made a point of emphasizing the following facts in its decision:

  • At the orientation for the student teacher program, university officials “cautioned the student teachers not to refer to any students or teachers on their personal webpages.”
  • One university official recounted at the orientation a “student teacher’s dismissal from his practicum after he had posted information about his Cooperating School on his personal webpage.”
  • Reinking warned the plaintiff that it was not proper to discuss her MySpace account with the students.

In short, Snyder had fair warning and posted the troublesome MySpace content at her peril.

The lesson for private employers could not be clearer. Provide employees with fair warning, through a written policy, of the on-line, social networking conduct that is a “firing offense.” If the employer ever is called upon to defend that decision at trial, the policy will go a long way towards tilting the factual dynamics of the case in the employer’s favor.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.