Can you be fired for what you post on a social website?

Asked on July 4, 2014 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If your employor has a social networking policy and you violate it, then that could be grounds for termination or other disciplinary action. The fact is that most businesses prohibit social networking on company time or posting anything disparaging about the company.

The majority of states have what is known as “at will employment”. This means that an employer can discharge an employee for anything that does not violate an employment contract, union agreement or constitute legally actionable discrimination. To avoid termination or other discipline at work, employees should refrain from any social networking at the work unless it is part of their job duties.

That having been said, while an employer has the right to take some form of action against an employee for engaging in prohibited uses of social media in the workplace, if it has such a social networking policy, it has to enforce the policy and punish any use, not just the conduct that reflects negatively on the company. Additionally, some states have laws which prohibit an employer from disciplining its employees from certain conduct outside of the workplace which are written broadly enough to cover online activity. Finally, a social networking policy that is too prohibitive may be a violation of an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 7 of the Act protects the rights of employees to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Accordingly, this section gives employees the right to speak out in an effort to improve workplace conditions. Therefore, employers’ social networking policies that prohibit such online conduct that might be considered a violation an employee’s Section 7 rights.


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