So you’ve been sacked from your job or position for something you posted on a personal social media account. These types of uncertain scenarios can be scary and often leave you wondering if what you posted is actually cause for wrongful termination. Luckily, there are ways to tell if your termination was unlawful. Work with a wrongful termination attorney to assess your situation and determine whether you’ve been unfairly fired from your job.
Can I Actually Get Fired for My Online Activity?
Like so many other legal scenarios, each wrongful termination case is unique. As social media becomes a significant staple in our society, the rules and regulations surrounding this topic are subject to constant change and different interpretations depending on individual company policies.
In some states or certain cases, your employer may have the right to terminate your employment due to social media posts. At the same time, in other instances, your words and opinions are protected.
Like the vast majority of American citizens, your employment is probably considered “at-will” under state laws. At-will employment allows workers to leave their position at any time and for any lawful reason, but it also means that employers can terminate you for any reason, too, so long as it’s not illegal.
It’s important to note that in some instances, certain contractual agreements can specify when employment will end regardless of what you post on social media and your state’s at-will employment status. These agreements cannot be broken by an employer unless there is a stipulation in place pertaining to social media posting.
Institutions in the United States protect certain types of online activity. An experienced wrongful termination attorney can assist you in determining the lawfulness of your employment termination.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) outlines several instances where employees may not face any consequences for contributions to their social media account. According to the NLRB, employees cannot be lawfully terminated when participating in “protected concerted activities” online. More specifically, these protected concerted activities on social media can include:
- Employees openly discussing or criticizing working conditions, company policies, or employment decisions amongst each other. Note: this does not mean you can go on a personal and public rant, venting about issues you have with an employer.
- Employee(s) whistleblowing on their organization via social media, announcing unlawful practices, working conditions, ethics violations, or their personal association with such illegal activities
- Posting any content on social media so long as it is not an illegal activity, in certain states
- Posting public opinions or political beliefs on social media accounts, in certain states
Even though some activities are protected under federal law, that doesn’t mean you’re free to posts all of your personal beliefs or feelings about your employer. In at-will states, social media content that reflects poorly on a company can be cause for termination. Additionally, other actions on social media can impact your employment despite the previously mentioned NLRB protections.
Lawful Social Media-Related Terminations
If you leave your social media accounts public and accessible to anyone, you’re open to the risk of lawful termination, thanks to what you post. Exposing insider information or trade secrets and confidential customer information are often violations of non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements, giving your company cause to terminate your employment.
On top of that, any content you post that reflects poorly on your employer can go against a company policy, putting you at risk of lawful termination. Inappropriate pictures, lude jokes, and other risky social media content can be grounds for dismissal, particularly if you live in an at-will state.
Taking Action: What to Do When You’re Wrongfully Terminated
After you’ve been fired for a social media post, you can be put in a challenging situation with a potentially significant impact on your income. With so much on the line in terms of employment and compensation, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney to determine whether you’ve been wrongfully terminated or if it is a lawful termination due to your social media posts.
Here are a few simple steps to follow when you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated because of the content on your social media accounts:
1. Stay Calm
Getting fired is never a good feeling, and when it’s associated with your social media accounts, it can be incredibly embarrassing and overwhelming. You might be tempted to fly off the handle and go down fighting, but first, face the reality of your situation and try to stay calm. You can easily get help from an experienced wrongful termination attorney, so there is no need to freak out just yet.
2. Collect Critical Employment Information
Next, when you have a better hold on your emotions, it’s time to get to work handling the situation. Before you get in touch with a trusted wrongful termination lawyer, look for anything that might come in handy when building a case against your employer. Some examples of essential information to provide to your attorney include:
- Tax forms
- Employment applications
- Claims related to harassment, discrimination, retaliation, etc.
- Workers’ compensation or disability claims
- Records of all correspondence with your employer
- Access to public social media accounts or posts in question
Although all of this information may not be necessary when building your case, it’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared when fighting against wrongful termination related to social media.
3. Contact an Attorney
Once you’ve collected not only yourself but all the necessary information, it’s time to contact a trusted wrongful termination attorney in your area. Lawyers with extensive experience in this subject matter can evaluate your circumstances and determine whether you actually have a case real against your employer.
4. Evaluate Your Circumstances
After an initial consultation, the attorney of your choice will make expert recommendations on the proper ways to approach your situation. In highly publicized cases such as those involving whistleblowers, your employer is undoubtedly at fault for unlawful firing. Still, you may have a strong chance for a libel or defamation suit, so you need to secure legal representation. Your lawyer will help you navigate the following steps, so you can receive the most favorable outcome as you fight for restorative justice for your professional reputation.
5. Take the Next Steps
If your attorney has determined that your social media-related termination is unlawful, it’s time to take action against your employer. Making the call to a legal representative minimizes any potential negative impacts on not only your income but your public image. A competent attorney can provide alternative dispute resolution services. If things go a step further, they can also offer expert legal services to secure your reinstatement or at least some of the lost income you deserve.
Although many companies have adopted a more relaxed outlook on their social media policies in modern times, there are still several instances where you can face severe consequences for what you post. Work with a trusted wrongful termination attorney like MJSB Employment Justice to fight against unlawful firing related to your social media posts.