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Can Your Facebook Posts Get You Fired?

Employers are cracking down on employees who air workplace dirty laundry on social media

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the Taco Bell employee who posted a photo of himself on social media licking a stack of tacos at work. At the time, it was all in good fun – the tacos were apparently never even intended to be served to customers – and he didn’t think much of it. But he quickly learned the harsh reality that what you share on social media could cost you your job. And in his case, it did. With the exploding popularity of social media, we’re able to instantly express our thoughts, feelings and jokes to the entire world. But that ability makes it trivially easy to post without thinking through the ramifications. And unfortunately for us, our employers are watching.

Workplace Policies and Social Media

The fact of the matter is, employers don’t want you Tweeting about them to the rest of the world. And they’re doing everything they can to make sure you don’t – including writing sections into employee manuals that outline the company’s social media policies. Many of these policies are very specific and indicate employees are not to discuss company matters, defame fellow employees or stoke any simmering workplace disputes on social media. In some companies, violating these policies is a fireable offense. So it’s important to understand any documentation related to social media policies that you’re asked to sign. Obviously, it doesn’t help your case if you blast a picture all over social media of yourself doing something that clearly violates company policy and just lacks overall common sense – as in the case of the Taco Bell employee. Always think before you share information with the world. And even if you think there’s no way your employer is going to see what you’ve posted, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

“So what can I say on social media?” You’re probably wondering if you’re allowed to say anything about work on social media. I mean, we all love a good venting session. And what better place to share that than on social media where you can get a quick response from all of your friends – or even total strangers – validating your resentment and anger? Well, to help you out, we’ve outlined a bit of what can and cannot be shared in hopes we can put your mind at ease. This is okay:
  • Under the protection of the National Labor Relations Act, you can talk about unpaid wages, working conditions and benefits. But only if you’re speaking with fellow employees and are constructively trying to solve the problems at hand.
  • Your opinions are your own, even if they’re factually wrong, and can be shared on social media. But again, only if you’re speaking with other employees and are trying to solve a problem.
But this isn’t:
  • Confidential information. At no time should you share any trade secrets or any other confidential workplace information, on social media or anywhere else.
  • Any abusive or harassing behavior towards other employees is not allowed. At no time should another employee be sexually harassed, threatened or retaliated against, whether at work or online.
  • You can’t just vent for the sole purpose of venting. Bad-mouthing your employer to everyone may or may not be allowed, but it’s certainly not legally protected behavior. You can be fired for doing it.
  • Anything that will violate the specifics of your company’s policies. Naturally, that varies from company to company, so make sure you keep copies of all of your signed documentation and that you clearly understand the policies outlined in your employee handbook. It’s the best way to make sure you’re not wrongfully terminated.
And there will be times when employers just get it wrong. If you’re reprimanded or even terminated due to your social media activity, make sure you get a written explanation that is consistent with your workplace policies. Protect yourself and make sure you take action if you’re wrongfully terminated. At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we specialize in employment law and understand the rights of the employee. We’ve helped victims of wrongful termination, harassment, workplace retaliation, discrimination and more. And we’re ready to help you. So give us a call today.
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