Social Media and the Workplace

You just made a controversial Facebook post about the company you work for forgetting your boss is one of your friends. Can you get reprimanded for what you post on your own personal social network? The laws surrounding social media and the workplace are still developing. The best piece of advice to follow is to always be cautious about what you post, whether you are on your own blog, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account. You are responsible for what you post and who sees it, so post restrictively.

Many employees assume that the First Amendment will protect their right to free speech on social media platforms. While it is true that the First Amendment protects free speech, it does not protect the right of private companies to censor or take actions against your social media posts.

If you are thinking about posting a negative comment on any social media platform about your job, re-think that action. A company may have many legitimate reasons to terminate an employee because of negative posts. The main reason for an employee to be reprimanded for their social media posts is due to their post causing an uncomfortable work environment. More often than not, employees are at-will. At-will employment means that you may be terminated at any point from employment and your employer need only show “just cause” for the termination.

What are Considered Protected Social Media Posts?

An employer may not be able to terminate an employee if their social media postings caused any concern for that employee’s:

  • Age
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability

These are protected classes under most federal and state laws.

Should I Delete my Social Media Before Applying for Jobs?

If you are currently unemployed or just graduated and are looking for a job, consider “pruning” your social media platforms before applying for jobs, but do not delete your presence completely. Not having a social media presence at all may equally affect your employment chances as much as an inappropriate post. Odds are, you have had various social media for a long period of time. If you cannot be sure that there is nothing controversial on your social media, it is best to review those outlets in their entirety. Future employers will try to see if you have any type of social media in order to learn a little more about you. It would be tragic if they saw a post from five years ago that made them reject you as a candidate even if you no longer feel or think in that manner.

According to a survey conducted for CareerBuilder, out of 2,300 hiring managers between February 6, 2017, and March 19, 2017, 70 percent of those employers used social media as a screening tool for potential employees. Additionally, 69 percent of employers are also using search engines such as Google or Bing to find information on possible employees. The top reasons for a candidate to be rejected based on social media screenings include:

  • Provocative or inappropriate material
  • Racist posts
  • Drinking and drug use
  • Posts complaining about previous employers
  • Poor communication skills

If you feel you have been wrongly denied a job based on your social media presence, or you feel your privacy rights have been violated during your employment, contact Steven Mitchell Sack, an experienced New York employment law attorney. Call (917) 371-8000 or fill out our contact form.

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