No matter how you feel about social media, it is here to stay. Many people turn to social media to communicate with others and to express their thoughts on every facet of their existence, including their professional lives.
For those who wonder whether you can get fired for your social media posts, this issue doesn’t just concern celebrities or those in the news; it has happened to many different people in various industries. The following are some examples of content that has resulted in the poster being fired:
- Bankers used social media to pretend to be members of a terrorist group.
- An Executive posted offensive tweets about their trip and was fired when the plane landed.
- A Contractor made an obscene tweet on a company’s official account.
- A TV exec posted about having no sympathy for victims of a mass shooting due to their own assumptions about the victims’ political views.
Like most states, California employment is considered “at-will”, which means that both the employee and the employer continue a working relationship based on their own will. The employee can quit at any time; the employer can let the employee go for almost any legal reason, including what they post on social media.
Violations of Company Policies
Many companies forbid engaging in social media during work time because it can be a distraction. If you violate this and post during work hours, or use company property, you could be disciplined and possibly fired. You may also be in violation if you post sensitive or secret information, such as a trade secret or a customer list. Any violation of a confidentiality agreement or a posting that shows you and by extension, the company in a bad light (such as using hate speech or sexist language) could result in termination.
There are activities and occasions that are more insulated from a dismissal. Individuals often cite the First Amendment as protection against being fired for something that you post. However, the Constitution typically protects you from government actors. And that even has limitations. If you work for a private company, then they have a right to discipline you for social media posts, even if the posts are personal and made on your own time.
One form of employee speech that is generally protected is the honest reporting of working conditions. For instance, if the content qualifies as whistleblowing, or you make posts about your employer not providing a safe environment during the pandemic or you encourage a colleague who was harassed at work to seek legal representation, then you will likely be on safer ground.
A tactic that employers use is to claim that the employee has been disciplined or fired based on a legitimate reason, when it is really based on an illegal reason. So, if your employer disciplines you supposedly based on your posts, but you can show another reason, (such as discrimination or retaliation for exposing unsafe conditions) then you may have a claim.
Discuss Employment Issues with an Experienced Lawyer
Having trouble with social media and your job? If you think that your employer is using social media as an excuse for wrongfully terminating you, or your rights have been violated, you should explore your case with a skilled attorney. Walton Law has skilled California employment lawyers ready to assist you with pursuing your potential claim. Contact us now to learn about how to handle your situation.