Technology has blurred the line between our public and private lives. With the rise of social media, more and more employers are now using Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds as grounds for termination. According to a survey from CareerBuilder, 34% of all employers have either fired or reprimanded an employee over his/her social media posts.
In most states, employees are considered “at-will” employees. This means that an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason but not a discriminatory reason (age, race, gender, pregnancy, disability, national origin, etc.) Therefore, a “Facebook firing” while seemingly harsh may not be actionable, especially if it involves posting trade secrets, customer lists or other confidential information. Here are just a few instances where an employer could use your personal social media post as grounds for firing:
- Making rude or offensive comments, especially about coworkers
- Releasing private company information or trade secrets
- Posting sexually explicit or inappropriate photos
- Showing that you lied to your boss about sick time
- Posting trade secrets, customer lists or other confidential information
- Venting about your company’s leadership
- Sharing that you’ve received another job offer
On the other hand, social media posts should not be used as a basis to terminate an employee, when the termination is based on the employee having a protected category characteristic, such as a termination based on the employee’s race, gender, age or disability. Such a firing would like violate the federal, New York State and New York City Human Rights laws. Another possibly protected activity if the employee is using social media for whistleblowing, such as announcing that the employer is conducted illegal activity or if the employee is confirming his/her involvement in the process of fighting some form of discrimination in the workplace. That employee may be protected by whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws.
The bottom line is that the actual content of your social media postdoes matter, and if your rights were violated, our New York employment law attorneys can help you fight back.
Contact Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP at (646) 490-0221 today if you believe your social media-based termination was illegal.