Can an employer fire you over a text message?

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Can an employer fire you over a text message?

Myself, boyfriend, best friend, and her boyfriend all work for the same company. A racial text message was exchanged between my boyfriend and my best friends boyfriend from my phone to her phone. Her boyfriend posted the message context on facebook specifically addressing our co workers. Now our boss is investigating the issue saying that the both of us could be fired for it. Can an employer bring something that happened outside of work into work and what rights do we have as far as privacy and behaving how we wish outside of work?

Asked on December 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, unless you have an employment contract (or union agreement) which limits the reasons you can be fired or specifies some process for discipline, you are an employee at will--and therefore may be fired at any time, for any reason, including things that happn outside of work.

Second, if the employer did not have the right to visit/view your face book page, then they might not be able to take action since they could not properly have seen the message. But you say the face book post address your coworkers; if a coworker who could legally view it (e.g. it was sent to him or her; he or she is a "friend" and can see your posts; etc.) and that coworker then brought it to the employer's attention, then the employer did properly see the message (anyone who receives a message--whether a post, a text, an email, or even an old-fashioned letter) can show it to anyone else.

So from what you write, it would appear you could be terminated for this. Note that most company's would fire anyone who posts or is involved in posting a racist message addressed to either coworkes or customers.


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