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Can You Be Fired for Something You Say on Social Media?

Posted by B&F Contributor | Mar 11, 2021 | 0 Comments

Social media can be a great place. You can join broad discussions, you can find humorous content, and you can share your thoughts with millions of people. That last part seems to get a lot of users in trouble. Celebrities garner the most attention when they say something out of line. TV host Wendy Williams issued two separate apologies for different offenses after voicing insensitive opinions. And singer Bryan Adams had to perform damage control after posting what many considered xenophobic remarks over his frustrations that the pandemic was canceling his concerts.

In those cases, both figures endured backlash before swiftly issuing apologies. Every day, people who aren't celebrities post similar thoughts or share controversial opinions, just without the media spotlight. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't think before you post. The next time you're about to join a discussion on social media, ask if what you're saying can affect things in real life, such as your job.

The short answer is yes. But like most things, there are nuances to the answer. Certain language is protected and cannot be used to justify consequences against you, such as termination. We'll look at three examples of protected speech and three examples of things that can get you fired.

Protected

  • You are allowed to vent about your working conditions or employment policies. It is your right to have an opinion about your job. You're even allowed to complain about supervisors as long as you do it in a way that doesn't harm the business.
  • Exposing illegal activity at your company, such as discrimination or fraud, may be protected under whistleblower or anti-retaliation statutes. If you have more detailed questions about being a whistleblower, reach out to Barrett & Farahany today. 
  • Your employer can't legally fire you for protected activity just because they don't like what you post. There has to be a specific and lawful reason, such as proof that your activity is hurting the company. 

Not Protected

  • If you're venting about work, what you're posting needs to be work-related. You can't personally attack or ridicule co-workers or managers for things like their looks or the way they speak.
  • If you post content that damages the company, trivializes the services or products they offer, or exposes trade secrets or sensitive information, then you can lawfully be terminated. There is a difference between venting about work and tearing down the company image as a whole.
  • Even though an employer can't legally fire you for protected complaints about working conditions, they can fire you for posting inappropriate pictures or content that can damage the employer's reputation. Anything from lewd to discriminatory language can be grounds for termination.

Social media has grown to be a part of our daily lives, but the legalities surrounding it are still relatively new. Winning a case comes down to having an experienced attorney who can identify the specific details that matter. Give yourself the best chance at winning by working with Barrett & Farahany. 

If you have questions or need consultation on an employment issue involving social media, contact us to see if we can help you.

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