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Can I Get Fired for What I Say on Social Media?

While having your parents on social media following your accounts might be widely considered as embarrassing, having your employer or boss do the same can be far worse. Everything you say on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular websites and applications can come back to bite you, especially if it directly insults your workplace or is likely to offend a large group of people. If your boss does not like your latest post, you might get an instant message back saying two words: “You’re fired.” Is this allowed? Or is it a violation of your right to free speech under the First Amendment?

For a few years now, ever since the smartphone got insanely popular and widespread, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been bombarded with people who wanted to know if they could be fired based on what they say on social media accounts. The answer wasn’t initially clear but, after handling case after case, it is clear enough now to say with certainty that, yes, you can be terminated for what you post on Twitter.

Social media posts that can be seen by anyone other than yourself are considered to be created on a public forum, to some extent. Think of it this way: if you were standing in the breakroom and talking about how much you wasted time at work and hated your boss, you probably wouldn’t be surprised when repercussions eventually came your way.

What About My Right to Free Speech?

By penalizing you, and even terminating you, for what you say on social media, your employer is not infringing on your First Amendment rights as they have not attempted to silence you. Remember: the First Amendment protects your right to say what you want but not from the consequences of that decision. If you were to walk into a convenience store and tell the clerk that you had loaded your pockets with products that you intended to steal, the police are going to arrest and search you, regardless if you “meant it” or not. Free speech is not the same as free from consequences.

So I Can Never Criticize My Job?

Not exactly. Employees of private businesses all have the right to “protected concerted activity,” or discussions with fellow employees about problems in the workplace. This means that you can set up a meeting with your coworkers at your home on the weekend and talk about how rude your boss is. The trouble with venting frustrations on social media is that, once again, it is a public forum. Nonemployees of the company can see what you have said, and therefore you are not having a discussion with coworkers and you are not using your right to protected concerted activity.

There is Strength in Numbers

If you are truly concerned about the state affairs at your workplace and want to share your worries on social media sites, make certain that other coworkers are willing to join in on the discussion. If you act alone in your venting, you can be fired alone. If you all come together in a forum discussion or back-and-forth thread, it can constitute concerted activity. If one or all of you are fired at that point, your employer likely has committed a whistleblower violation and could be in serious legal trouble for wrongful termination.

Learn more about your rights as an employee by contacting our Atlanta employment law attorneys at Buckley Beal LLP. We have nearly a century of combined experience and legal knowledge we can put to use investigating your claims and protecting your rights. Call us at (404) 471-3725 to get connected to our employment law firm today.

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