Women Lawyers Beware: Social Media Posts Could Cost You Your Job

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.

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Thought For The Day: Adopt the pace of nature — her secret is patience. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A Woman Judge Steps Up to Protect Women

Justice was served today when Larry Nassar, an Olympic Team USA doctor, was sentenced to over 100 years in prison for sexual abuse of young women gymnasts over decades.  If you have not seen the remarks of the sentencing judge in a Michigan court, here is the link.

She was powerful and everything you want a judge to be in facing off against a sexual predator, who at no time fully embraced his wrong-doing and the harm he had caused to young women and their families.  This judge was relentless.

This is yet another chapter in the growing movement against abuse of women by powerful men, who use their power to gain personal pleasure and control over powerless women.  From the #MeToo movement to a courtroom in Michigan, women are finally being believed and given the respect they deserve, and powerful institutions are being forced to ask questions and examine policies and procedures that have been ignored for too long.

It is not just about women.  It also is about men.  Men often are victimized as well, and women need to have empathy and understanding for their plights.  And we hope that making strides toward equity and justice for victimized women will have the effect of also gaining equal and compassionate treatment for men who become victims.

Make no mistake, however.  Today, it is about WOMEN.  Today we celebrate the 150 plus women, who were victims of Dr. Nassar and who had the strength and wisdom to appear in the courtroom and tell their stories and the stories of their families.  They are examples of what all women should aspire to be.  They spoke truth to power, and they have contributed to a lasting difference in our society and in our lives. 

Bravo and thank you to these brave women.  They all deserve Olympic medals.

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Thought For The Day

“It is easier to reach our potential when we include others in our quest.”

John Wooden

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Thought For The Day

“Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot.”

Hansa Proverb

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Not Just for Women Lawyers —- All Women Must Use Their Power Responsibly

If you have not seen the video of CNN journalist Ashleigh Banfield responding to the accusations from an anonymous source of sexual abuse by comedian/actor Aziz Ansari, you need to.  Here’s the link, as presented by newsweek.com.  The accusations and the response have given rise to a lot of impassioned discussion and controversy, and women across the globe need to sort out the facts.

The point of your inquiry should be not whether the events took place but whether the events amount to the kind of sexual harassment that is the benchmark of the #MeToo movement and the #TimesUp movement that followed.  Those movements are founded on a recognition that women have suffered abuse in the workplace because of an imbalance of power where they were powerless to refuse unwanted advances and remained silent because their employment and financial livelihood depended on cooperating with the abuse by powerful men, who controlled their futures and their ability to work.

That is not what the anonymous blogger complained of.  Rather, she complained of a date gone wrong, albeit with raw and unsavory facts, but a situation where she had the POWER to walk out —- as in TO LEAVE a situation that had turned into something she did not want.  She HAD THE POWER and leaving would not have cost her a job or curtailed any of her future employment opportunities.  There are no facts presented to indicate that she was being forced in any way to stay and to continue to experience behavior that she apparently found abhorrent.  In fact, when she finally did leave, the alleged abuser did not stand in her way.  Far from it.

Why is this important, and why am I breaking with tradition by taking it on?

The answer is simple.  Because, as Ashleigh Banfield states in her open letter to the accuser, complaints like those of the accuser diminish the value of legitimate movements, which involve true sexual harassment and abuse of power.  Muddying the water with descriptions of dates gone wrong (rather than workplace abuses) and women who fail to use the power they possess to extricate themselves from objectionable circumstances serve to retard the progress of these legitimate movements rather than advance them.

I have been talking about and writing about women lawyers using their power to control and manage their careers for over a decade.   Now, I want to send that same message to all women.  Although you may encounter an imbalance of power, you must use the POWER YOU HAVE to change your circumstances and protect your futures.

You have VALUE, and you have POWER.  Understand it and use it.  To do anything else is to join the abusers.



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Thought For The Day

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Survival Notes for Women Lawyers

I am back from my December hiatus and ready to meet the challenges and joys of 2018 with vigor.  The good news is that I am finalizing a new book for millennial lawyers, which will be released later this year, and the bad news is that there is never enough time for everything I love to do.  But, as you know, it is all about choices, and I will do my best.

Regarding my return to this blog almost two weeks into January, I have a good reason for what looks like dilatory behavior.  This year the December holidays spilled over into January when my family members met up in Montana for wildlife sighting, skiing, touching base with our western roots, and good old family fun, including lots of stories and even more exaggerations.  It was awesome, and it also made me think of all of you.

Taking a deep dive into nature has a way of putting things into perspective.  In my case, that deep dive started at 6:30 AM in minus 18 degree weather in Yellowstone National Park.  Our wildlife tour of the Lamar Valley took us to places where it is most possible to see elusive wolves this time of year, as well as many other species.  However, I have to fess up that the wolves were the draw for all of us.  They are amazing creatures, and the tour did not disappoint.  In addition to wolves, we saw bison, moose, elk, deer, mountain goats, Big Horn sheep, and the adorable river otters.  (No bears are available for viewing this time of year due to hibernation.)

The wolves, especially, reminded me of you — in a good way.  Female wolves must survive in a pack that has only one alpha female just as you must survive in a profession that is not controlled by females and which often includes senior females who are resisting your rising role of influence.  Here is where we can take a cue from the wolves.  Even alpha female wolves continue to nurture their young and the young of deceased female wolves, and they also perform other important functions in socializing the pack and giving instruction during the hunt.  In other words, they are very important for reasons quite apart from their role in breeding and producing pups to increase the population of the pack.  They look out for each other, they mentor younger wolves, and they assume leadership roles in the interest of the entire pack.  They appear to know that they all survive together.

Similarly, for women lawyers, it is not enough to just empower ourselves.  We also must empower each other in order to survive.

There is something to learn from the wolves.  I hope you get the opportunity one day.

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