Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

Can You Be Fired for Social Media Posts?

Social media has become one of the most popular ways for us to communicate. While the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, private employers can discipline and even fire you for what you post on your social media account.

This article examines wrongful termination and when your social media posts can get you fired. Wrongful termination laws vary by state. So, you should consider speaking with a wrongful termination attorney in your state right away. An experienced attorney can give you the best advice about your circumstances.

At-Will Employment

Most employment in the United States is at-will. At-will employment means that an employer can fire employees for any lawful reason. That includes what you post on your personal social media account. But there are some cases when it’s against the law for your boss to fire you.

Illegal Employment Discrimination

It’s illegal for your employer to fire you for a discriminatory reason. What that means is that your employer can’t fire you because of your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • National origin
  • Age if you’re over 40
  • Genetic information

Whistleblower

Employers can’t fire you for making true comments about your working conditions. For example, talking about the following is allowed:

  • Unequal pay
  • Harassment at work
  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Your employer’s illegal activity

But keep in mind that your comments must be true. Your employer can fire you for statements you make that aren’t true.

Violating an Employment Agreement

Your employer can’t fire you in violation of your employment agreement if you have one. For example, your employment agreement or contract may include a provision protecting you from firing for making truthful comments on social media.

Supporting a Union

Federal law protects your right to take part in “protected concerted activity.” That means you and other employees are free to act together to improve your working conditions. For example, your employer can’t fire you for online posts about:

  • Terms of employment
  • Working conditions
  • Other relevant workplace issues

Be aware that your employer may be able to fire you if you’re just venting your frustrations to the world. To be protected, your comments must be talking to other employees about working conditions.

When Can Your Social Media Posts Get You Fired?

Many people think their First Amendment rights protect everything they post on social media. But that’s not true. Despite our right to free speech, there are times when your employer can fire you because of an online post. The following are some reasons:

Creating a Hostile Work Environment

Employers must provide a safe work environment. Posts that are threatening or harassing can make other employees feel unsafe. For instance, racist or sexist comments can get you fired.

Violating the Company’s Social Media Policy

Most companies have social media policies outlining what is unacceptable for an employee to say on social media. Your employer can lawfully fire you if you violate a company policy.

Here’s an example. An assistant account executive at a marketing firm was on the team that landed a new client. In her excitement, she posted a picture with the new client’s logo on Instagram. Unfortunately, the firm had told employees not to post anything on social media until they made a formal announcement about the new client. Her firm found out and fired her for violating company policy.

Disclosing Confidential Company Information

Disclosing company trade secrets or confidential information can get you fired. So, if you have access to such information, be careful not to post it on social media. For example, don’t post salary data on the internet if you work in a human resources department.

Making False or Misleading Statements

Lying about your employer on social media can harm their reputation. So, your employer can fire you for saying something untrue about it. For instance, an employee of an ambulance company made a Facebook post claiming that the company’s ambulances were unsafe. The company determined that the statements weren’t true and fired the employee.

Posting Racy Images

Posting obscene images can also harm your employer’s reputation. It can also offend customers. For example, the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN, fired an ESPN commentator for posting a video of exotic dancers on Instagram.

Posting About Your Illegal Activity

You can lose your job if you do something illegal. A Colorado teacher found out the hard way. She made a post saying she got high in the school parking lot. While smoking marijuana is legal in Colorado, doing it on school grounds is not.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

We value our free speech rights. But your employer can fire you for what you say on social media. So, you must be careful about what you post. The good news is that the law protects you from being fired in some circumstances. An employment lawyer can help you understand the law. They can also give you legal advice about your case.

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