Tweeting About Your Station"
March 18, 2011
"Your on-air DJ just tweeted something negative about an advertiser. The advertiser called you and has threatened to cancel all advertising unless you fire the DJ. You are planning to fire the DJ. What do you need to look out for as you get ready to fire him to make sure you are covered?"
John: What's a GM to do?
This is, sorry to say (as much as I encourage the full employment of lawyers), a "call your local lawyer" question. Labor laws on termination of employees vary from state to state so it is wise to seek legal counsel before any employee termination decision in which you have reason to believe the station will become involved in potential employment litigation or claims.
Further, while hopefully not the case, if the DJ managed to libel or otherwise damage the advertiser in the 140 character tweet, the advertiser might ask the station for real compensation in addition to the advertiser's visceral delight at seeing the DJ fired. If you, in consultation with legal counsel, believe that there may be a claim for damages that could be made by the advertiser, it may be wise to involve the advertiser in some sort of documented promise not to bring legal action if you follow through with your termination of the DJ. Otherwise, you could find the advertiser using your firing of the DJ as evidence that you admit that what the DJ did was wrong.
It might be time for a review of your station's social media policies as they relate to employees. Social media use is an area for which there are no right or wrong answers, but there are certainly many questions and potential pitfalls. At the same time, review your errors and omissions insurance policy to be sure that it covers social media use and posts by your station's employees as when the need arises for such insurance, it is already too late.
Finally, it goes without saying that, from the FCC's perspective, the job vacancy created by the termination of the DJ, assuming the DJ position is full-time, requires the FCC's EEO broad outreach and recruitment efforts for the vacancy including documenting job interviewees and each interviewee's referral source.
John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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