While constitutional laws certainly grant you the freedom to post your opinions on social media websites, employment laws are not so clear regarding employee protections for social media posts. Generally speaking, an at-will employee may be terminated for any reason that the employer sees fit, so long as that reason is not discriminatory in nature and doesn’t violate any federal or state laws.
This includes firing an employee who has posted or blogged something negative about their company, a supervisor, or even a fellow co-worker. Employment laws generally don’t prevent a private employer from firing an employee due to a "rant", inappropriate posts, etc. This is especially true if the post is posted in a manner that is viewable to the general public.
What Type of Posts Are Likely to Get Me in Trouble with Work?
Many workplace disputes now revolve around persons being fired due to inappropriate posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other similar sites. While each employer may have different policies regarding social media conduct, there are certain types of posts that can inevitably lead to negative consequences with an employer. These include:
- "Caught in a lie" posts (i.e., employee claimed to be sick, but the post shows that they were on vacation during their "sick leave")
- Posting safety and health violations (for instance, a fast food employee posting a picture of themselves tampering with food at work)
- Posting illegal activity/criminal activity
- Revealing company trade secrets
- Complaining about a job
Thus, employees should always exercise discretion and good taste when posting information on social media, especially if there is a chance that an employer or co-worker might view the post.
Are any Types of Posts Protected by Law?
Labor union laws do protect employees who are engaged in "concerted activity". For instance, this might include lobbying on behalf of other co-workers, such as demanding better work conditions, hours, etc. Here, employees tend to be protected from employer scrutiny when they engage in concerted activity. However, these types of cases are somewhat rare and may involve complex legal concepts and definitions.
Should I Contact an Employment Lawyer?
Employment laws are very specific when it comes to social media activity. This area of law is relatively new, since social media websites are also quite new. You may wish to hire an employment lawyer if you have any questions, complaints, or legal concerns involving social media and your worksite. Your attorney can provide you with up-to-date legal advice and can also explain your rights under state and federal laws. Also, if you need to file a legal claim or lawsuit, your lawyer can represent you in a court of law as well.