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Can your employer fire you for your social media activities?

Understanding the impact social media use can have on your job is more important than ever

Social media usage in the workplace is a common occurrence. While the vast majority of employees use social media responsibly, others utilize social platforms to express negative opinions, harass coworkers or badmouth their employers. In these cases, the individual behind the post, video or tweet may be terminated for their actions, especially when the content reflects poorly upon the company.

It is important to know your company’s social media policies

In recent years, many organizations have taken steps to prohibit the negative use of social media, including the creation of company policies governing the subject. The most common social media activities prohibited by an employer’s social media policies include:

  • Derogatory comments about the employer: Comments regarding your employer or the quality or product or service they provide, may be viewed as grounds for termination. Whether the post was made on a public forum or on your private portal, your comments may be against your employer’s policies. 

  • Comments about coworkers: Few employers look kindly upon employees who make derogatory comments regarding coworkers. Such actions can negatively impact employee morale or create dangerous rifts between coworkers – each prospects that may result in issues for the company as a whole and the victim as an individual.

  • Harassment of a coworker: Workplace harassment is prohibited under the Human Rights Act. That protection extends to nearly every mode of communication, including social media. An employee who harasses a coworker via social media is likely in danger of termination.

  • Discriminatory comments: Employers are often committed to rooting out discrimination before it becomes an issue. While it is your right to maintain your own thoughts and ideals, the transmission of discriminatory content via social media may lead to your termination.

  • Distribution of trade secrets: Many employers place strict limitations upon the distribution of any information regarding the company’s operations or trade secrets. When even a small security leak can damage an organization, employees who deliberately or accidentally share trade secrets via social media may face termination.

  • Lewd or illegal activities: An employee who shares content displaying or describing their participation in lewd or illegal activities may be terminated. In most cases, such actions are prohibited under human resource policies – even a suspicion of a prohibited activity may be grounds for termination.

It is important to note that an employer may terminate your employment for any of these, and many other actions on public and private social media channels. 

Is social media activity protected under the First Amendment?

The debate regarding freedom of speech and social media usage is likely to rage on for years to come. The distinction between an individual’s freedom of speech and their freedom from termination is a less convoluted topic, however. While it certainly may be true that you have the freedom to post your thoughts, regardless of their content, on any social media site you wish, your comments may still be used as grounds for termination. Since New York is an at-will employment state, your employer may fire you for just about anything, including social media use that they deem inappropriate. In the end, you have the right to express your thoughts. You just don’t have the right to keep your job if your thoughts negatively reflect upon your employer or coworkers, or your actions violate your employer’s social media policies.

Discussing your social media issues with a New York employment lawyer may be helpful

If you have been terminated in a manner you think is unfair, it may be helpful to discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. The New York employment attorneys at Hepworth, Gershbaum & Roth have advised countless clients on matters relating to social media usage and termination. After listening to your concerns, our attorneys offer personalized advice on any legal option you may have to resolve your situation favorably. To schedule a free consultation with one of our New York employment lawyers, contact us online or call 212-545-1199.





Contact an employment law attorney in New York today for a free initial consultation and determine whether you have a case. For a free initial consultation, you can contact us online or by phone.

CALL US TODAY! 212-545-1199