What you post on Facebook and other social media sites can reach more people than you intended. The message you wrote for your friends could end up on your supervisor's desk. It could even get you fired.
Can your employer fire you for exercising your freedom speech? The answer is yes. The first amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from governmental retaliation or censorship when you express your opinions and ideas. It does not protect you from employer retaliation. Unless you have an employment contract that states otherwise, your employer can fire you anytime and for almost any reason.
There are exceptions, however. The following are examples of times when you may be protected from employer retaliation for the messages you post on social media sites.
- Concerted activities. When you engage in certain communications in concert with other employees, you may be protected by the National Labor Relations Act. For example, if you and other employees are expressing complaints about the terms and conditions of your employment, those communications may be considered protected speech whether you are a member of a union or not.
- Political posts. Under Florida Law (§110.233), your employer may not discriminate against you because of your political opinions or affiliation.
- Other protected speech. Communications regarding issues in the workplace such as discrimination, sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions or violations of the law may be considered protected speech.
The distinctions between protected speech and unprotected speech can be subtle, and only an experienced employment lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal environment affecting social media.
The most important rule anyone can follow is to think before you post. If you are frustrated over an issue at work, the last thing you should do is post or tweet a disparaging comment about your employer or a coworker. Before you post anything, ask yourself if you would like your current boss or a future employer to read it.