Can I be written up at work for a text message sent to a co-worker off the clock?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I be written up at work for a text message sent to a co-worker off the clock?

My co-worker took an old tap handle my boyfriend had previously asked my boss for so I wrote her a text while I was at my home and my boss tried to have me sign a write-up for harassment because I said,

Asked on March 15, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


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

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Most employment arrangements are "at will". This means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit. This includes making degrogatory remarks about your workplace or co-workers in an on-line social media site such as Facebook. Therefore, such remarks can be grounds for disciplinary action or even termination. Accordingly, unless this action violated the terms of an employment contract/union agreement or constituted legally actionable discrimination, it was legal. That having been said, while an employer has the right to take action against an employee for engaging in certain uses of social media, a few states have laws that prohibit employers from disciplining employees from certain conduct outside of the workplace and this can include social media posts. Also, a social networking policy that is too restrictive may violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (altough that would not apply here since such rights have to do with collective bargaining and the like). At this point, you can consult directly with a local lawyer as to your rights under specific state law.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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