Employee turns out to be no friend on Facebook page

ManagementApril 24, 2012 

Q. When one of my employees handed me a page she'd printed from another employee's Facebook page, saying I should know how that employee described me to the world, I thanked her for her concern but said I'd rather not know and stuffed the page in the trash can.

After she left, I grabbed it, read it and went into total shock. This employee has always told me now much she likes working for me and often says, "You're a terrific boss." On her Facebook page, however, she calls me witch boss, passive-aggressive and the micro-manager from hell.

I can't get what I read out of my mind. Because these were the employee's private comments, how do I bring them up? If I do, what are the legal and other pitfalls?

A. Nothing on the Internet is private unless you break into someone's password-protected account, which you didn't. Although your employee probably didn't "friend" you, she described you to the world at large. That makes her comments public domain.

You don't, however, have to do anything. Your employee vents to others about you while complimenting you to your face. That makes her two-faced and what she labels you -- passive-aggressive.

If she handles her job duties well and speaks positively in the office, deal with her on that basis. When she next compliments you, consider she may be angling for a raise or some other benefit. Don't retaliate for what you've read unless you discuss it with her or you'll earn that passive-aggressive badge yourself.

If you decide you need to bring up her Facebook rant, show her the page and tell her you want a better working relationship. Ask her to be honest about what she thinks you need to change.

Listen to what she says and take it from there.

Q. I was sick during pregnancy and used up all my sick leave. When I gave birth, I took two weeks of leave without pay and then had to return to work.

My son is smaller than normal and because of this I'm determined to breast-feed. I'm supposed to express breast milk every two hours but I'm scared to leave my work station because my dragon of a supervisor gets on anyone who doesn't work every minute.

I've tried sneaking into the bathroom but I think she's on to me because she followed me into the bathroom this morning. It made me so nervous I didn't express. I can't afford to lose my job, so what can I do?

A. Thanks to a provision buried in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you have protection. The law requires employers to provide reasonable breaks and a place other than a bathroom, like an office with a locked door, where mothers can express milk shielded from view and free from intrusion for up to a year after their baby's birth.

The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn't require employers to pay for such breaks for an employee -- if they're longer than 20 minutes -- unless they do it for other employees for breaks of similar duration. If you express for 10 or 15 minutes and return to your work station, you shouldn't lose any pay.

The law exempts from these break requirements only employers of fewer than 50 employees who can show they would suffer an undue hardship by providing them.

Employers who discriminate or otherwise discipline employees for expressing breast milk may additionally be guilty of sex discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Finally, you might show your supervisor articles outlining how supporting employees who breast-feed pays off. Breast-fed babies are generally healthier, which reduces their parents' absenteeism.


Dr. Lynne Curry is a management-employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Co. Inc. For questions, Curry can be reached at www.thegrowthcompany.com.

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