Posting content on personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites is not always protected under employment laws and can get you fired.
While the United States Constitution protects citizens from the government with regard to their First Amendment right to free speech, employees should be aware that this right does not extend to privately owned businesses. They should be cognizant of the fact that anything they post online, whether on Facebook, Twitter, their personal blog, or any other site can be used by their employer as grounds for termination. It is common for employers to perform searches using Yahoo, Google, and other search engines to see what their employees are posting online.
Employers are limited in their ability to fire or bring disciplinary action against employees based on the content of blogs or social media posts.
The following are examples of instances that may provide protection to employees who blog or post on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites:
Several states have employment laws in place that protect employees from being disciplined or fired for conduct outside of work, including using tobacco or alcohol, or participating in activities that stay within the limits of the law. These employment laws may offer protection for posting on Twitter, Facebook, other online sites, and personal blogs.
A small number of states provide protection for employees from being discriminated against for their personal political views and party affiliations. Employers in these certain states are not allowed to discipline or fire employees for endorsing political candidates on social media or in their blogs.
The same employment laws that protect employees from blowing the whistle on employers that allow illegal activity or safety hazards in the workplace may also protect employees from blogging or posting about these same issues online.
There are employment laws in place that protect employees from being disciplined or fired in retaliation for blogging or posting about salary violations, harassment, discrimination, or violations of the FMLA.
Employees who blog or post on Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites about issues such as lack of benefits, long hours, and poor wages could be protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
Aside from the above issues that could provide legal protection, it is wise for employees to simply refrain from posting information online that could land them in hot water with their employers.
The following are tips to stay out of trouble:
Do not use social media to post critical comments about your coworkers, including work-related issues or personal attacks against them.
Even if this type of post is intended as a joke and the person it refers to is not offended by it, employers could still discipline or fire you.
Employees can be fired for leaking any company trade secrets, confidential information and other information the employer would like to keep secret.
If an employee does not want their blog to be scrutinized, they should blog anonymously, keep their blog off Yahoo, Google, and other major online search engines, and restrict the audience allowed to view it.