Facebook Surfing Cost Swiss Woman Her Job

A woman in Switzerland working for Nationale Suisse told her employer she couldn’t work at the computer, and had to stay home in the dark.

A fellow employee supposedly noticed her surfing on Facebook and reported her. And yes, it cost her the job.

The employee’s quite plausible position was that she was surfing Facebook on her iPhone in bed. She also accused them of spying on her.

Most workers are becoming aware that privacy controls should be used to protect personal information, even from employers. And persons added as “friends” probably shouldn’t include those that will try to get you fired.

Is the employer required to investigate how the employee was actually accessing Facebook? And if not, are these reasonably sufficient grounds for dismissal?

Considering the already low expectation of privacy of employees in the workplace, does this type of monitoring constitute an unreasonable intrusion?


  1. If this is a completely isolated incident between this employer and employee then I would suggest that she might have grounds for wrongful dismissal (in Canada). However, the facts in the story are so thin that I am assuming there’s more to it: There’s “abuse of trust”, and there’s abuse of trust, and even a bank can tell the difference.

    Browsing the web at home when you’re on a sick day is not abuse of employer trust — it’s discretionary use of personal time while convalescing. What if she was watching Youtube on a laptop? Reading Das Kapital on a Kindle? The Kite Runner by candlelight? Who cares? Certainly not an employer, under normal circumstances — the person’s not there, productivity is impacted, but the employee will be back tomorrow. However, if an employer is looking for a reason to fire an unwanted employee, (possibly one who takes lots of sick days?) the employer’s sensibilities can suddenly become highly delicate.

    The story lacks much useful detail, though.

  2. I agree with Tim that there must be more to this story. Surely any “abuse of trust” could not have arisen from this event alone. It could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Perhaps this person has a very bad habit of calling in sick on days on the dates of major deadlines? We have no way of knowing.

    As for privacy, everyone should always remember that your employer can see everything you do on your computer at all times. If they really wanted to they could even capture everything your screen displays as a video file, or they could monitor what you can see in real time.

    That isn’t really very likely, but what IS likely is that they will have a log of every url you access. They can easily store away all of the unencrypted data sent out from your computer – including all hotmail messages (and blog comments).