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Employee Fired for Instagramming Paycheck. Is This Legal?

Employees have an absolute right to discuss with each other how much they make. It is illegal to have a policy that prohibits wage discussions, or to fire an employee for engaging in such discussions.

September 24, 2013

Wade Groom, a salesperson at Lacoste’s Midtown New York City store, posted this photo of his paycheck to his Instagram account. Included with the photo was the following caption:

Paycheck. Still silly to me. Ever since I was a kid I’ve thought it was completely insane that we have to work all our lives. I still feel that way. Especially when it’s only enough to live in a third world apartment with [sh**ty] everything. Which for some reason in NYC is ok. Anywhere else only trailer trash live this way. I’m done with it.

Despite the account being market “private,” a copy of the photo made its way to the corporate office. According to a report at metro.us, Groom was then summoned to meet with an human resources manager, who fired him for breaking the company’s “confidentiality contract.”

I have two takeaways to share from this story.

  1. Employees have an absolute right under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss with each other how much they make. It is a violation of federal labor law to have a policy that prohibits wage discussions, or to fire an employee for engaging in such discussions. If Groom has any co-workers who follow him on Instagram (and it’s a safe bet that he does, since someone gave the private photo to management), then the company might have a big legal problem. Regardless of whether the termination is legal, a “confidentiality” policy that prohibits wage discussions violates the NLRA. Either way, Lacoste should be calling its labor counsel.

  2. Nothing on social media is ever “private.” No matter how secure you believe your social media profiles are, all it takes is for one person to grab a screencap of something you think is private for it to become permanently public. If you don’t want your employer to see something, don’t post it.

Over the summer, I wrote how photo and video sites—like Instagram and Vine—could create huge headaches for employers with the National Labor Relations Board. This story illustrates the risk employers take by ignoring these evolving technologies and their intersection with traditional labor and employment laws.