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Can employers fire workers for what they say on social media?

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2023 | Wrongful Termination |

Employers can generally make the decision to terminate a worker for just about any reason. At-will employment laws make it difficult for those who have just lost their jobs to take legal action against a company. However, in some cases, people may qualify to file a wrongful termination lawsuit, which can help them by either securing them an offer to return to employment or at least financially compensating them for the hardship they have wrongfully experienced.

When employers give a reason for letting a worker go, that can be the starting point for a wrongful termination lawsuit. For example, a worker may be in a position to fight back if they lose their job over something they posted on their personal social media accounts.

Social media firings have become common

Since the earliest days of social media’s proliferation in the aughts, there have been anecdotes affirming that some people lose their jobs or don’t get hired because of their behavior on social media. Employers might find content talking about partying or politics that makes them rethink hiring someone or keeping them on staff. Although workers sometimes allege that such terminations are wrongful because they violate their First Amendment right to free speech, that is not necessarily true. Additionally, many employers now have social media policies worked into their employee handbooks or contracts.

Oftentimes, companies require that workers not talk about the business online. Some contracts will even include non-disclosure agreements that prevent employees from acknowledging where they work on social media. Provided that a worker’s behavior on social media directly violates the company’s written policy on such matters, the termination may not violate the worker’s rights.

However, if the company does not have a social media policy, if it fired someone for protected characteristics, like their group affiliation or religion, or if one worker lost their job while others have gone unpunished for similar conduct, the worker affected may have the right to pursue a claim against the business. Reviewing an employee’s contract and a company’s handbook can be a good way to begin analyzing whether a situation warrants a wrongful termination lawsuit.