In this day and age where information is viewable near instantaneously, companies can catch heat and loose reputation at the drop of post, a video, or a tweet. Companies are very protective of their public image, their reputation is valuable and they are invested in maintaining their reputation.
We’ve seen instance after instance where a company has faced near instantaneous backlash over a variety of issues. From an employee spitting into or spiking a police officer’s drink or food with something, to a company tweeting or posting something vulgar or controversial that was the opinion of the person in control of the account but not company policy.
Companies are in business to profit from their services, a social media post that damages those prospects because the poster is associated with the company is a quick way to find yourself distanced from that company.
But, your 1st Amendment!? Right?
In some instances, yes.
In others, no.
TechFunnel has a good summary, started here and continued at the source link.
In the current social media age, employees regularly share their personal lives, political views, and job-related information online. Social platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have significantly blurred the lines between personal and professional lives, especially as employees follow their subordinates, supervisors, and colleagues.
While most people believe that the 1st Amendment to the U.S constitution, which prohibits government agencies from restricting their employees’ freedom of speech, gives them a right to say anything online or offline, this doesn’t apply in all situations. The Amendment only applies to government employers. However, such restrictions don’t apply to private businesses and employers.
Laws Limiting Employer’s Right to Fire Employees for Facebook Posts
Even though private employers can terminate employment contracts without legal repercussions, several laws limit employers from disciplining or firing employees for their online posts. However, these restrictions depend on the nature of the posts. They include:
Protected Concerted Activities
The National Labor Relations Act provides guidelines for employee unions and employer relations and protects employees’ right to communicate among themselves, especially regarding their employment terms and conditions. This right applies to employees with or without unions.
Recently, the National Labor Relations Board, the agency tasked with enforcing these statutes, has increasingly enforced employee rights against companies that take disciplinary actions against employees who share their concerns online. Comments covered under protected concerted activity include employee comments about their working conditions and workplace discrimination.
Some states have legislations that protect employees from disciplinary measures resulting from political alignments and beliefs. In such states, employees can institute legal claims against employers who fire or discipline them for expressing their political views.
Some states also prohibit businesses and private employers from firing employees for Facebook comments that they make during their off time, provided the posts are legal.
Several federal and state laws protect employees from facing disciplinary actions or getting fired from their employers for sharing workplace problems, such as discrimination or harassment. Employers who go against these provisions can be sued by affected employees for illegal retaliation.
Online Scenarios Where Employees Can Be Fired
Employees can be fired for their Facebook content in various scenarios. They include;
Violating Company Policy
Most companies have a laid-down social media/online policy that describes the allowed and banned posts. Even if your employer doesn’t have a policy, it is prudent to avoid sharing anything about your employment on social media platforms. Examples of posts to avoid include:
- Sharing personal company information – posting about staff decisions, product updates ahead, and private information can get you fired. If your company hasn’t shared anything online, hold off as well.
- Providing endorsements or references – some companies have strict policies guarding references and endorsements. You can be fired for writing a personalized recommendation for a former employee.
- Negative comments – posting negative remarks about your workplace is also risky. Think twice before posting how idle or boring your workplace is.
- Deceptive posts – don’t take sick leave and go swimming at the beach. Even if you do so, don’t post it online. Your supervisors could be watching.
- Inappropriate comments – posting off-color, sexist, or racist comments about your co-workers, clients, or any other person is problematic. Note that an offensive comment can easily go viral and later be associated with your employer. No employer wants a bad PR, especially resulting from an employees’ poor use of social media platforms.
Searching for a Job or Handling Personal Matters While at Work
Searching for employment while at work is another costly issue, especially if you are using your employers’ computer and working hours. This is similar to handling your side hustles while at work. Most employers prohibit the use of office computers for personal issues. Employers have the right to limit social media access and other online activities for their employees while at work.
That said, rather than exposing yourself to possible termination; you should be careful with your online activities. Some of the ways employees can avoid being fired include:
- Avoid sharing topics that are considered objectionable or controversial online.
- Avoid sharing work-related issues, especially those that may appear critical to your employer or customers. The NLRB will only protect you from comments that are part of collective employee action.
- If you must share your opinions on Facebook, keep a secret identity.
- Don’t send resumes or handle your side hustles while at work. If you just do, use personal email accounts and personal devices.
Click the source link for more.
Your terms of employment may include certain social media responsibilities online, mainly relegated to the public image of the company and your association as an employee. If you want to retain your autonomy online, you should make all possible efforts to be certain your employment and your online activity cannot be linked.
Barring that, you must act responsibly in your posting and refrain from sharing items that negatively affect the image of your employer because you are seen as a representative of that company. Certain things you will absolutely have a right to post without adverse action by your employer, but many things that your are allowed to say are not also on the list of things a company will retain your services for too and they are not under an obligation too.
Post wisely, friends.