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Man terminated for nasty tweet about Navy SEAL widow. Does he have a case against his employer?


Carryn Owens, whose husband, Navy SEAL Willian Owens, was killed during a raid in Yemen, attended President Trump’s speech to Congress on February 28th. We’ve all seen the very moving photo of her crying as Trump acknowledged her.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune today, Daniel Grilo, who was a principal at Liberty Advisor Group at the time, was watching the speech and tweeted, “Sorry Owens’ wife, you’re not helping yourself or your husband’s memory by standing there and clapping like an idiot. Trump just used you.”

That tweet went viral and sparked a firestorm of comments on Twitter and other social networks defending Ms. Owens. Within a few minutes Grilo apologized several times and eventually deleted his tweet.

However, despite his apologies, Liberty Advisor Group fired Grilo and deleted his profile from their website. The company also issued a statement on their website stating, “The individual who issued the tweet is no longer affiliated with Liberty. … His comments were inconsistent with the Company’s values and the unyielding respect it has for the members of our Nation’s Armed Forces.”

This situation opens up a lot of serious questions. Was the company right in firing Grilo? Are personal social media posts protected especially when the post is not related to a person’s employer?

Perhaps the biggest question is: Does Grilo have a case against his former employer? Yes, he may, according to Phillip Schreiber, a partner in the law firm Holland & Knight who represents management in employment cases.

According to Schreiber, “Generally speaking, what people say on social media that is not related to their employer usually is not a concern of the employer. But if someone who is newsworthy makes an inflammatory post on social media, it’s not difficult for someone to track that person back to his or her employer,” he added. “That’s when you may have consequences.”

“The question is … if an employee is terminated for what he or she put on Twitter on his or her own time … is terminating someone because of that a violation of Illinois’ Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act,” Schreiber said. “That remains to be determined, because there are not a lot of court decisions interpreting the law in that context.”

Failure to follow local and national laws relating to social media can land a company in court. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) generally protects employees and their private social media posts. However, there is plenty of legal information to be had from social media and there is a right way to use it.

We have to wait and see what Grilo’s next move is. If he decides to sue Liberty Advisor Group, it will be an interesting case. We will definitely follow this story and keep you abreast of the decision.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about being compliant when using social media searches for employment purposes, contact a Cisive Specialist at 866-557-5984 or click here.

Philadelphia’s Wage Equity Bill Goes Into Effect on May 23, 2017

Philadelphia is the first city in the nation that prohibits employers from asking about a job applicant’s prior earnings. In an effort to create a bridge to the gender pay gap, Mayor Kenney signed the Wage Equity Bill which applies to both public and private companies. The law goes into effective on May 23, 2017.

The Wage Equity Bill would add Section 9-1131 to the City’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

Supporters contend that since women have historically been paid less than men, the practice of asking for a salary history can help perpetuate a cycle of lower salaries for women, continuing throughout their careers.

Women in Pennsylvania are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a 2015 Census Bureau report. For black and Hispanic women, the pay gap is even wider.

Key provisions are:

  • It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer, employment agency, or employee or agent thereof to:
    • Inquire about a prospective employee’s wage history, require disclosure of wage history, or condition employment or consideration for an interview or employment on disclosure of wage history, or retaliate against a prospective employee for failing to comply with any wage history inquiry or for otherwise opposing any act made unlawful by this Chapter.
    • Rely on the wage history of a prospective employee from any current or former employer of the individual in determining the wages for such individual at any stage in the employment process, including the negotiation or drafting of any employment contract, unless such applicant knowingly and willingly disclosed his or her wage history to the employer, employment agency, employee or agent thereof.
  • This subsection shall not apply to any actions taken by an employer, employment agency, or employee, or agent thereof, pursuant to any federal, state, or local law that specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of wage history for employment purposes.
  •  For the purposes of this Section,  “to inquire” shall mean to ask a job applicant in writing or otherwise, and “wages” shall mean all earnings of an employee, regardless of whether determined on time, task piece, commission or other method of calculation and including fringe benefits, wage supplements, or other compensation whether payable by the employer from employer funds or from amounts withheld from the employee’s pay by the employer.

The law also includes a posting requirement, for which the City has not yet provided a poster, but plans to do so in advance of the May 23rd effective date.

Recommended Actions

Review job applications and remove any wage history questions.

Review your hiring and interview policies and processes. Revise them to eliminate inquiry into wage history at any stage in the employment process.

Train all individuals involved in recruitment, hiring, interviewing, and drafting and contract negotiation to comply with the requirements of this law.