From time to time I write about the use of personal social media and the caveats for women lawyers. In fact, my recommendation consistently has been that you get off personal social media all together. But, I know how attached some of you are to instant feedback and gratification, so I continue to write about it. You need to be reminded about the pitfalls of using social media on a regular basis. Eyes and ears are everywhere.
Here is a scenario and question posed on a website addressing this issue. The answer to the question may surprise you because many of you view your time away from the office and what you do on that time as completely personal and untouchable by your employer. Well, think again.
“I posted something on my personal Facebook page that my employer found offensive and I was subsequently fired. It wasn’t about the company and was done during my own time. Isn’t that an infringement on my First Amendment rights? Can they fire me for expressing myself just because they didn’t like my message?”
Here is a summary of the answer provided on that website:
- The First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech in most circumstances, but that does not apply to private employers.
- In most circumstances, a private employer can fire an employee for what he or she writes and says online and off. Limited exceptions include protection by whistleblower laws if the employee is exposing unlawful or unethical activities within the employer company.
- Many employers review the social-media profiles of prospective employees and may make decisions about whether to hire based on those posts. Employers also can fire someone if the employer concludes that an activity undermines the employee’s role, authority or the company.
Please pay close attention. As the website post points out, many careers are damaged by social media messages and advancement of those messages. Beware of these far-reaching effects and post with caution — if you insist on posting.
Better to be safe than sorry.