Facebook post gets TBN worker fired
Writer: Mary Ann Milbourn | 10 July 2012 | economy.ocregister.com
Facebook has become the battleground for workplace issues with the latest involving a Trinity Broadcasting Network employee who was fired for a post that was critical of the Christian ministry’s leadership.
Recent workplace dust-ups have involved a variety of issues from employers asking workers to disclose their Facebook username and password so they can see what the employee or job applicant has posted to ordering removal of private posts that were perceived as derogatory.
All fell into the murky area of free speech and private activity versus employer rights.
The TBN case is different. Jonathan Rovetto, the now former assistant station engineer at TBN’s Milwaukee outlet, knew he likely would be fired but posted a rant on Facebook anyway.
His ire targeted TBN founders Jan and Paul Crouch, who are locked in a legal battle against their granddaughter, Brittany Crouch Koper, who accused them and the network of misusing the ministry’s funds.
Rovetto, 53, and a Brittany supporter, had been following developments in the case online and was becoming more upset with each revelation about how TBN was run.
He initially just began linking on Facebook to online Orange County Register stories about the litigation. But two weeks ago, he said he decided he had to speak out.
"TBN, why should you care? Many people really dislike TBN and don’t watch," he wrote on his Facebook wall. "Over the years people have been turned off by Jan’s pink hair, screaming preachers during Praise-A-Thon, and the heavy concentration of ‘Prosperity Teachers’ that fill the TBN schedule."
Rovetto acknowledged the Crouches had built TBN into an international ministry.
"However, they have fallen into the trap that many other prosperity preachers/successful ministers have fallen into," he wrote. "One word, ENTITLED. Their hard work and success have given them reason to believe they have done something to deserve a lifestyle of pleasure and excess."
He ended the post asking people to pray for Brittany.
On June 28 Rovetto was fired at the instruction of John Casoria, TBN’s in-house legal counsel.
An email from Casoria to Rovetto’s manager cited the Facebook postings as cause for the dismissal.
"Our follow up shows that he continues to make negative statements about his employer publically (sic)," Casoria wrote. "This is unfortunate. Neither his conduct nor his attitude is conducive to his continuing employment with the ministry."
Rovetto estimates less than 100 people saw the post but he realized he still probably would be fired.
"I wanted to speak freely about my employer," Rovetto said.
Roger Schnapp, a Newport Beach attorney and expert on employment law, said legal issues surrounding an employee’s right to comment about their employer on their private social media sites is an evolving area.
"The question becomes whether an employee engaged in protected activity," Schnapp said. "There is a good likelihood he could have a remedy, as crazy as it sounds."
Colby M. May, TBN’s attorney, declined to discuss Rovetto’s dismissal.
"I am sure you can appreciate, pursuant to Trinity’s general policies and in respect of privacy interests, it does not comment on personnel matters," May wrote in an emailed response to a request for comment."Trinity does, of course, comply with all employment laws applicable to its ministry operations."
Meanwhile, Rovetto escalated his attack on the TBN leadership after his firing, posting what he calls a video "smackdown" on YouTube.
www.jonathanrovetto.com (He has apparently changed his position!)