Wondering if you can get fired for posting something on Facebook and other social media?
The majority of people believe that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech, protects their right to say anything they want, online or off. This is true when it comes to the government. Within limits, the government may not tell us what we can say or what we can’t. But there is no such restriction that applies to Private Employers.
In short, yes, you can be fired for what you post on social media like Facebook or any other site. However, there are certain laws that limit the extent of an employer’s right to fire or discipline employees for what they post online.
Limitations to an Employer’s Right to Fire an Employee over Social Media Posts
Luckily private employers can’t discipline or fire employees for anything that they dislike on their employee’s social media. There are laws that limit an employer’s right to discipline or fire employees for the content that they post online. The restrictions, however, are dependent on what it is that is written about.
Protected Concerted Activities: The National Labor Relations Act that governs the relationship between the company’s management and unions, protects the rights of employees to communicate with each other about the terms and conditions of their employment. This right is subject to whether the workplace is unionized or not. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that imposes the Act, in recent times, has displayed a special interest in enforcing this right against employers who discipline their employees for the content they post online.
A group of employees who make comments about the working conditions or criticize the management on social media may be found to be protected concerted activity. The employees may not be disciplined or fired for this.
Political Messages: A select few states protect their employees from discipline on the basis of their political beliefs and activities. In such states, if an employee is disciplined or fired for expressing political views online, he/she may have a legal claim against the employer.
Off-duty Posts: Few states forbid employers from disciplining employees for what they do in their personal time. This is as long as those activities are legal. In states like these, an employee may be protected from discipline for online posts.
Retaliation: There are a number of federal and state laws that protect employees from retaliation due to reporting certain types of problems (harassment, discrimination, unsafe working conditions, etc,). If an employer takes action against an employee who reports a problem online, that could constitute illegal retaliation.
What’s Okay for You to Post, Like or Share
An employer cannot fire an employee for venting on social media. Employees are allowed to vent. If they post about finding it difficult to work or how they find the work environment unpleasant, they can’t be fired for that.
The government protects workers’ rights to talk about where they work even if it is insulting and harsh. Whether it is work hours, pay, assignments, dress code, or tough supervisors, it’s illegal for an employee to be fired on these grounds.
What’s Not Okay to Like, Share or Post
The NLRB upholds firing that is based on posts that damage a company, trivialize their products and services, reveal trade secrets or financial information. Posts that encourage subordination as well are not protected.
Employees can be fired for posting information about customers or clients. Employees are not protected against homophobic, racist, sexist posts or posts that discriminate against religion. The NLRB does not protect employees against posts that are not related to working conditions. For example, posts ridiculing the way the boss or a co-worker looks, speaks or dresses are not protected.
Incidents where people have got fired for what they posted on Facebook
Here are some incidents from the past where workers have gotten fired for posting on social media:
1. “First day at work. Omg (oh my God)!! So dull!!”
Kimberly Swann was fired for posting about her job on the first day of work. Three weeks later, the message made its way to the upper management, and she was fired.
2. “Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete hitman? Yes, it’s been that kind of day.”
Gloria Gadsden, a professor of East Stroudsburg University got fired for posting a status a few days after the Feb 12 shooting at the University of Alabama.
3. “S__! Anyone know how to pass a drug test in 24 hours?”
A prospective employee at a company who was supposed to pass a drug test and a physical test posted this, after which the offer was withdrawn.
4. A guy once made a post talking about wanting to go home and play The Sims so he could create the telecommunication store that he worked at in the game and then slowly kill off all the customers. The post was made while he was working on a late night shift. He later got fired for it.
Now that you know what is safe and what is not safe to comment, like or post on Facebook and other social media, you can fight for your rights if falsely accused. Employers often scan their prospective candidates’ Facebook profiles to get a glimpse of their personality before hiring. If you have any sexist or racist comments on Facebook, it’s best to delete them before you head for an interview.
Fired because of Facebook!!!
Posted by Gwen
I worked for a company for two years. I posted on Facebook “Heading off to hell, hope Satan isn’t working today.”…or…”I can’t believe people really can’t add and subtract WTF”… and then commenting on a friend (also ex-employee) that she “needed to contact “bob” soon and “bob” would be there on Monday.”
I was told that postings on Social networking sites were against company policy and with recent complaint from a customer (the day before they fired me a customer complained about something I did over a month ago and lied about what was said and done. And it was on video which they never bothered to look at.) my services were no longer needed and to turn in my keys.
Can I collect unemployment because of this?? I didn’t mention what the job was, who it referred to, what the reason was or anything else on Facebook. They said it was portraying the company negatively. The person that reported the FB post was a coworker who was pissed at me for something I still don’t know what. And the girl that complained is the coworkers cousin.
I never signed anything saying I wouldn’t have a FB page. I was never provided a copy of the policies however they were on the intranet. One time they sent an email telling us that if we see something negative to not comment on it and turn it in to the MGT team. I didn’t say the job SUCKED or the company Sucked… my asst manager was a jerk and everyone knew it.
Misconduct must be related to the work.
Also, when we accept a job, one of the obligations we owe to an employer that pays us, is to not “harm their interests”, but to do our work in their best interest.
So, I do not think an employer can reasonably have a policy that demands an employee not have a Facebook page, but they can reasonably fire an employee without out much fear if an employee posts something detrimental which can be reasoned to of caused harm to their best interest .. even on your own FB page.
Mostly, I would say companies have good cause to be worried about their public image especially if they behave like little dictators who think of employees as basically, indentured servants with no rights of their own.
I can tell you that if it’s just the Facebook posts being cited as the final incident and a post is the good cause for a discharge which still must be proven to be work related misconduct . I would begin with investigating if the post can be argued as not misconduct .. because you said that you did not personally identify anyone or anything.
In the future, all at-will employees need to keep misconduct in mind when posting on personal social media pages about their job and pause a moment and use a touch more discretion about what they post about their job .. at least if their job as living, is a necessary thing they need to protect.
Posts on social networks are like climbing on top of your roof and yelling to those in your immediate vicinity.
But, like sound, even social post can carry uphill, meaning anyone who can see the post can share it with their circle.
You’re not the first fired for something they wrote on their Facebook wall and you won’t be the last.
I have a lot of “conservative family” and I don’t want any of them to get their panties in a twist and forget why they love me… because after all, I’m really just a wannabe kumbaya kinda of gal (with an attitude)
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