≡ Menu

Facebook Posting Leads to Firing & Union Appeal

The city of West Allis (Wisc.) is appealing an arbitrator’s order to rehire a dispatcher fired last year for posting on Facebook that she was addicted to drugs. The city fired Dana Kuchler, 45, after learning of the off-duty posting, but she filed a union grievance, and an arbitrator ruled the discipline warranted only a 30-day unpaid suspension. Kuchler, a 21-year veteran, testified that she’s never had a drug addiction and, in fact, tested negative for drugs. She also notes that she included the word “Ha” in the posting, a traditional indication that a statement is a joke. The arbitrator said that the city did not have any social networking regulations at the time that would have prohibited Kuchler from making Facebook remarks. But in its appeal of the arbitrator’s decision, the city says that, “Making stupid jokes on Facebook where the line between public and private communications is admittedly blurred, calls into question that good judgment and common sense of the grievant and her resulting ability to perform her job.” The city also explained, “This is a case where a Police and Fire dispatcher’s conduct—publicly posting her addiction to controlled substances and illegal drugs—mocks and is blatantly inconsistent with the mission of the Police Department that employs her—upholding the laws prohibiting the use and distribution of such substances.” Lastly, the city contends that Kuchler was at the last stage of a five-step progressive discipline process used with city employees, and termination was appropriate.

11 comments… add one

  • suzyrae June 1, 2010, 7:32 pm

    Just a heads up: be very careful what you post on facebook! even if you don’t think there is anything wrong with what you say, agencies tend to find something wrong with it. I learned this the hard way although not for the reason that this dispatcher was fired.

  • mg June 2, 2010, 6:21 am

    I am ever so amazed, everyday, at the stupid bonehead things people will do.

    Common sense is a lot like wisdom teeth – both do not develop until somewhere between 17 and 25, and both are slowly disappearing from the human species

  • John June 2, 2010, 4:36 pm

    Start reading Pickering v. Board of Education (google it). Government agencies better be careful about abridging the first amendment rights of public employees. Copious case law on this, usually favoring the employee.

    If you also google “public employees freedom of speech” you’ll also get a lot of hits…public employees have stronger protections to prevent their government employer from attempting to squelch their first amendment rights as a means to enforce workplace rules.

    This dispatcher may have a valid civil rights violation claim.

  • John Linko June 2, 2010, 5:38 pm

    You’ll also need to read about Garcetti v. Ceballos, a 2006 Supreme Court decision that has been interpreted to have some effects on Pickering. It’s definitely a slippery slope, but hopefully the West Allis case will be resolved in a way that warns both sides about what constitutes reasonable discourse by a public servant that is protected by the First Amendment, and the consequences of a heavy-handed response by the employer.

    I think that there is some credence to the theory that they were just looking for an excuse to cut loose a legacy employee, in favor of hiring someone without that high-powered seniority in a union shop.

    • Dana Kuchler August 1, 2010, 11:56 am

      Thanks for the case law information. Headed there now to read it…..

  • Janet June 13, 2010, 6:20 pm

    People sound off on work and whatever else on Facebook because it’s a friending network.
    I can’t be sued if I say (for example) my boss is being a total jerk today to a friend in my back yard or on the phone.
    In the same manner, why is it anyone’s business what I say on Facebook?

    The error here is that Facebook is a friending network. Work people are never friends, no matter how good you get along with them. Never mix work & play. It backfires. Every time.

    • Michelle October 24, 2011, 9:26 am

      You are soooo right! I learned the hard way that work people are not friends, especially in this environment. With 2 separate sets of co-workers I have had to block them from facebook. And I was extremely vague in my vents. To the point of not even using genders in my vents. Which told me that a co-worker(s) were targeting my vents and twisting my words to meet their agenda. I will NEVER make that mistake again.

  • Dianne December 2, 2012, 2:31 pm

    I am a dispatcher with Niagara Regional Police in Ontario. Recently a group of us were out having a few drinks and talking about the disrespect we get from uniforms on the road. One of the girls showed me a picture on her i phone of a German shepherd sitting at a police dispatch console with a headset on and the title was, “Next time your dispatcher barks at you, you’ll know why.” Of course everyone was pissed off but she told us it was put on a Facebook account belonging to a deputy chief of police for the Toronto Police named Peter Sloely…WTF!!! was the group response. Then she told us he was caught out and lied to everyone, saying that someone hacked his account, even though he was overheard joking about it with co-workers. The dude gets busted and then lies about it and gets away with it….different spanks for different ranks I guess cause we are always being told NOT to Facebook in case it goes public and we can be suspended or fired yet this douche bag gets away Scot free. Where’s the justice!?!?!? Where’s the respect!?!?!? We all get told we are respected and honored and we do a wonderful job blah blah blah but come on….who wouldn’t feel dumped on when a deputy police chief does it and gets away with it….it made us wonder what they are really saying about us behind our backs and that this guy had to be one of the stupid ones who got caught so how much do they really respect what we do.I’m just saying, it ain’t fair.

  • CC March 19, 2013, 1:51 am

    Even if you don’t friend your coworker that doesn’t mean someone at work won’t find out what you said. You should still be careful what you post. Aside from that some agencies now require you to log into Facebook during the interview process, then hand over the keyboard so they can snoop, others simply demand your password. Complete invasion of privacy in my opinion but it’s becoming more and more common.

  • Nick at Nite March 19, 2013, 2:15 pm

    I have worked for a small city in Texas for 20 years. I rarely mix my work with my off-time. I have one person at work I do things with off-duty, but that’s it. My Facebook profile does not mention where I work, I have no work pictures in my profiles, even the albums, and I NEVER post anything work-related. We are losing more and more of our freedoms, and some police agencies act like we should be on duty for 24 hours and just get paid for 8 hours. You really have to be careful with what you do on Facebook or any other social media.

  • Arnika June 23, 2013, 11:03 am

    The city had a problem with that dispatcher’s Facebook post, and the city fired her (punished her) for its problem!!! This is violence. This is not assertiveness.