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Can You Lose Your Job for Bad-Mouthing a Company Gift Online?

Close up of barbecue with buns and corn on table in park
By Andrew Leonatti on January 09, 2020

In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, instead of the large cash bonus he was expecting, Clark Griswold received a one-year subscription to the jelly of the month club as a company Christmas gift.

The gift led to one of the funniest rants in cinema. But what would've happened if he unleashed that vitriol on Facebook or Twitter instead of just in front of his family?

Canadian Worker Fired for Criticism

News reports in recent days have highlighted the case of a Canada-based branch manager for Fastenal, an American company that sells construction supplies. The manager did not react well to receiving a bottle of barbecue sauce and a wooden grill scraper for Christmas from the company.

In a since-deleted Twitter post, he asked: "What kind of multi billion company gifts its Canadian employees barbecue sauce as a holiday gift? Yet the USA employees stuff their face with an actual holiday giftbox?" while also tagging the company in the post.

After someone made sure Fastenal's human resources department noticed the post, the manager lost his job, opening the company up to a flood of social media criticism. The company's CEO noted that while American and Mexican employees received different gifts, they all received gifts worth $27.

The firing was most likely legal. The Fastenal employee manual contained language about not posting language online that would reflect poorly on the company.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), had the manager been discussing working conditions with a co-worker, that would be acceptable behavior here in the U.S., as that is activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

The SHRM also recommends that company's develop social media policies that ask employees to:

  • Make clear that they do not represent their employer on social media and that their views are not necessarily the views of their employer (you often see this in Twitter bios)
  • Avoid sharing any confidential information about the company
  • Avoid posting anything that could be discriminatory and contribute to a hostile work environment

What Should You Do?

Even though Clark Griswold got away with kidnapping his boss over the lame gift, the same wouldn't happen to you. If you aired your grievances on social media, you also would likely get in trouble.

In short, you should think before you post. Your employer may not jump straight to firing, like Fastenal did, but there could definitely be consequences.

Related Resources:

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