Can I be fired for an on-linecomment that I made last night off the clock?

UPDATED: Oct 14, 2011

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Can I be fired for an on-linecomment that I made last night off the clock?

Asked on October 14, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It depends. As a general rule, you can be terminated for this. In an at will employment relationship an employer can pretty much set the terms and conditions of your employment as it deems fit. This includes comments made on social networking sites. So typically, unless you have an employment contract or union agreement that prohibits your discharge, or your dismissal violated existing company policy, or your treatment constituted some form of actionable discrimination, you have no legal recourse here.

However, there is an exception regarding the firing of an employee for making negative on-line comments about their employer. If the griping amounted to "protected concerted activity", an employer cannot fire a worker under federal labor law. In some instances, the Facebook chatter may be no different from workers gathering around the water cooler to discuss working conditions. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from punishing employees, whether or not they are members of a union, for talking about wages or workplace conditions or forming a union. The idea is to more easily enable communication among workers so that they can decide if a union is necessary.

So whether or not you can be fired depends on the circumstances surrounding your comments. If it was just for negative remarks made to your family and friends with no other purpose, then yes you may lose your job over this. If it was to made to other employees for the purpose of improving working conditions, then you are probably protected. 

At this point, if you still have questions you should consult with an employment law attorney.

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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