Bad things happen when we publicly post things that upset our bosses.
Sometimes, posts result in getting fired.
Sometimes, posts lead to losing a job before it starts.
But for a Florida man who posted about the company he worked for in the United Arab Emirates, the outcome was far more severe: it resulted in getting tossed into a Middle Eastern jail.
The Associated Press reports that Ryan Pate, a helicopter mechanic from Belleair Bluffs, Florida, had a mixup over sick leave with the company he was working for, Global Aerospace Logistics.
Pate, 30, told the AP that he had traveled home to Florida in December to spend the holidays with his family and to propose to his girlfriend, Jillian Cardoza.
He was also hoping, while in Florida, to get treatment for a back injury.
But seeing a doctor would have meant extending his leave, and that’s where the disagreement boiled up.
After one particularly thorny phone call, Pate took to Facebook to complain about Global Aerospace Logistics.
Pate can’t remember exactly what he wrote. He does remember throwing the word “backstabbers” into the post, which warned other contractors not to work for his employer.
Then, without giving it much further thought, he returned to Abu Dhabi to file paperwork required to end his employment, to empty out his apartment, and to sell his car.
Soon after he arrived, he got a call from the police, telling him to come to the station. That’s when police showed him screenshots of his comments.
Officers arrested Pate for breaking an Emirates law against slandering his employer.
Cardoza said Pate sent her this text from the station:
I'm being arrested. I'm so sorry. I love you.
Pate spent about 10 days in jail. As of Thursday, he was free on bail, awaiting his trial on 17 March.
If convicted, he’s facing up to five years in prison and a steep fine.
Pate’s congressman, Rep. David Jolly, is working on his constituent’s behalf, lobbying the State Department and Emirates officials for help.
Jolly has written to the Emirati attorney general, pointing out (respectfully) that, since the posts occurred while Pate was on US soil, the Emirati laws shouldn’t apply.
A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, told the AP that a consular officer had visited Pate in prison and that the embassy in Abu Dhabi would continue providing assistance.
In a phone interview with the AP, Pate said he’s so accustomed to First Amendment protection of free speech that he never imagined his post could lead to such a serious outcome:
I just couldn't register it in my head because as an American growing up in the United States, the First Amendment right is just ingrained in my brain.
I never even entertained the fact that I would wind up in prison out here for something I put on Facebook in the United States.
He also said that he’s remorseful for letting his emotions get the better of him.
Pate certainly isn’t the first to suffer the consequences of unwise postings.
A high-profile case of people who’ve had their careers shoved into the mud came up earlier this week when Curt Schilling named and shamed Twitter trolls, leading to nine trolls who’ve been fired or kicked off athletic teams.
But while Pate isn’t the first to regret a post, his is one of the most egregious outcomes.
To paraphrase Schilling, in the real world, you get held accountable for the things you say.
If you’re not careful, accountability can be severe, whether it’s getting fired, getting suspended from college, or even imprisonment.
Please learn from Pate’s example, and don’t forget: the First Amendment, or whatever law protects free speech in your own country, stops at the borders.
Image of jail bars courtesy of Shutterstock.
20 comments on “Facebook post criticizing employer lands Florida man in Abu Dhabi prison”
Don’t let the shiny buildings and Bentleys fool you, UAE is still the third world….
No, free speech is a basic human right and knows no borders.
There is no such thing as a basic human right, only rights that have been granted by some governing body and even then there are limitations. Perhaps you’re not familiar with “Free Speech Zones/First Amendment Areas.” Google is your friend.
Only if the country you are in has laws protecting that right. Don’t be naive.
Apparently you’ve never been outside of the United States.
Yes, perhaps … but there’s also the possibility that “Anonymous” was just trolling and is having a larf/laugh. ;<)
If not, the Wiki article would be good reading for him/her/it.
All that aside, my hunch, based on Pate's having posted his rant while outside UAE, is that the charges will more-or-less quietly go away under govt-to-govt pressure and I wouldn't be surprised if Pate didn't wind up with a nice little nest egg for the trouble he's been put to.
As Dennis Miller might say, "But that's just my opinion … and I could be wrong."
I was told by my mother long before the digital age that if you wouldn’t shout something in the middle of the street don’t say it or write it. It’s even better advice now.
What part of his brain told him it was ok to slag off his employers on the net and not get any comeback? I don’t get this hiding behind the ‘First Amendment’ stuff, does he think this means you can say what you like about anyone, anywhere?
The only contrition he seems to have is being dumbfounded that the First Amendment didn’t protect him.
I hope he hasn’t been working on the next helicopter I fly on.
“Pate’s congressman, Rep. David Jolly, is working on his constituent’s behalf, lobbying the State Department and Emirates officials for help.
Jolly has written to the Emirati attorney general, pointing out (respectfully) that, since the posts occurred while Pate was on US soil, the Emirati laws shouldn’t apply.”
Condensed: “since the posts occurred while Pate was on US soil, the Emirati laws shouldn’t apply.”
Ahh, but that argument did not help Kim Dotcom much with HIS case against the U.S Department of (in)Justice. It did not help him (Kim), even by NOT be an American citizen, NOT even visited the U.S. once and which also lives in New Zealand. So why should such an argument be more valid for an American?
So… you’re comparing someone voicing an opinion to alleged criminal activity… OK
Which in this case, is alleged criminal activity, no matter how daft that seems to us.
His point stands, unfortunately.
Funny how fast “free speech” becomes your excuse when you can’t think before you speak.
“Pate’s congressman, Rep. David Jolly, is working on his constituent’s behalf, lobbying the State Department and Emirates officials for help. ”
Maybe, since Pate was going back to end his employment, maybe it would be easier\better to lobby Global Aerospace Logistics to drop the charges…
“Jolly has written to the Emirati attorney general, pointing out (respectfully) that, since the posts occurred while Pate was on US soil, the Emirati laws shouldn’t apply.”
Gary McKinnon – was on UK soil when he accessed open NASA computers. 10 year legal fight to avoid extradition.
Richard Dwyer – Was on UK soil when he set up tvlinks and allegedly lost US corporates millions in damages for TV shows that were FREE TO AIR anyway AND he wasn’t hosting any of it, just linking. Yet he had to fight extradition and eventually went willingly only to get a small fine and a bollocking.
What about the Russians/Czechs/Bosnians/Romanians etc. who stole credit card numbers whilst in their home countries who are being extradited to face charges in the US?
Here’s what it boils down to:
1 rule for ‘muricans, 1 rule for everybugger else.
Again, you’re comparing someone voicing an opinion to alleged criminal activity… very different arguments… unless you’re on the run.
And again, this is a criminal activity in the country involved.
And still a bit of a sucky law.
Are libel slander covered as free speech anywhere? They typically are more of a civil issue but calling someone a backstabber in the US can have consequences.
I would speculate that Global Aerospace Logistics recruitment may become a little more “difficult” after ratting a resigning employee to the local thought police. “Work for us! Great salary and perks, then we have you jailed when you resign”, yes, that should get them queuing at the door ….
Lesson for Americans: Free speech isn’t absolute, or protected everywhere.
Lesson for Global Aerospace Logistics: Even if they dropped everything, paid the guy off and everything becomes rainbows and unicorns, this news story will never ever go away, no matter how many “reputation protection” companies are employed.
Lesson for anyone considering working in UAE: Be careful what you say and where you say it.