Social Media and Wrongful Termination
The average person spends over two and a half hours every day on social media. With over 4.76 billion people using social media, the impact of social media on a person’s employment is quickly accelerating. More questions and cases are arising about whether employees can be terminated for something they share on social media.
States have differing laws on employment and social media, so it’s important to remember to research the laws in your location. Here’s a quick overview of wrongful termination as it relates to social media.
Can You be Fired for Something Posted on Social Media?
Many people cite the First Amendment as their protection against being wrongfully terminated for what they put on social media, but this area is more gray than black and white. While the First Amendment does protect your right to free speech, it does not mean you won’t suffer any consequences for what you say.
Private employers and companies do have the ability to discipline or terminate employees for what they post on social media. It’s important to note that employers cannot fire an employee for posting content related to:
- Truthful statements about the workplace, including regarding harassment or working conditions
- Your demographic information (like race, age, sex, etc.)
- Comments about starting or joining a union
Aside from those types of statements, employers generally do have the right to fire someone for social media content.
Common types of posts that led to the termination of employment include posts with:
- Racist or offensive content/connotations
- Proprietary or confidential information
- Negative comments about your employer or customers
In addition, posting for personal purposes while on the clock can also get you fired.
Examples of Employees Getting Fired Because of Social Media
A recent survey found that “88% of U.S. hiring managers say they would consider firing employees for content found in workers’ social media posts.” With increased scrutiny of social media posts, employees are finding themselves in hot water.
The prospect of going viral is tempting – so tempting that it often leads employees to behave in a way that jeopardizes their job.
In 2022, a food service worker was fired after a video showed him tampering with food. This led to far-reaching ramifications, including investigations with the local authorities and health department. One employee shared her story of getting fired for sharing news of a confidential partnership before it was officially announced.
Examples of Wrongful Termination and Social Media
While many courts have ruled in favor of employers in cases of wrongful termination related to social media, employees have come out on top in some instances.
In the case NLRB v. Butler Medical Transport, employee William Norvell was fired for commenting on a former employee’s social media post. When the former employee said they felt the termination was unfair, Norvell suggested they get a lawyer, take Butler Medical Transport to court, and contact the labor board.
When Butler’s HR team saw the conversation, they fired Norvell for violating their social media policy. The National Labor Relations Board determined that Norvell’s termination was improper because he was engaging in protected, concerted activity. The NLRB found Norvell’s comment to be for the “mutual aid and protection” of other employees. The Board also found Butler’s social media policy to be unlawfully overbroad.
California Employment Lawyers
There’s no clear-cut answer to the question of wrongful termination and social media. As with every lawsuit, so much depends on the facts of the case and the state’s laws.
However, if you are interested in discussing your case with an employment lawyer in California, reach out to the McGonigle Law team today.
Our team has decades of experience with cases related to wrongful termination, discrimination, and more.
The information contained herein is for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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