Today, everyone uses social media- from employer to employee. In many instances, businesses, professional offices, retail stores, and even restaurants use social media to promote their services and products. Yet, whether it is in a professional or personal setting, many individuals do not even think twice before posting anything on social media platforms. However, this lack of understanding can end up hurting them professionally.
Generally, during the workday, employers have the right to monitor their employees’ use of the internet (including checking emails and visiting social networking sites) on computers owned by the employer. However, federal laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against a current or prospective employee based on information on the employee’s social media site relating to their color, race, national origin, age, gender, immigration or citizenship status, and disability. Yet, even with these regulations, what you post on social media can still affect your job and your employment law claim.
Social Media and Social Networking- What Does it Consist of?
Generally, social media is any form of electronic communication through which users create communities online in order to share ideas, messages, information, and other content. These social media sites include social blogs, wikis, microblogging (Twitter), internet forums, and social networks (Facebook and Instagram). On the other hand, social networking is using these social media sites to communicate with other individuals.
The Employee’s Rights
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council’s position, the use of personal information from social media accounts to discriminate against an employee is illegal. In fact, employers may be liable for creating a hostile work environment if they allow other employees to post negative information or negative comments about another employee or if they learn about the negative social media posts and do not take any steps to have it removed.
However, not every social media post is protected, and an employee needs to consider the below factors to see if their post can affect their employment:
- Social Media Posts During Working Hours: Typically, an employer has a stronger claim to review social media posts while the employee is supposed to be “on the clock” and working for the employer.
- Social Media Posts Relating to Workplace Conditions: Workers usually have a right to speak honestly about their workplace issues, such as harassment by coworkers or their employers, unsafe conditions, pay disparity, and supporting the right of other workers.
- Social Media Posts and Employment Termination: If you are fired because of a social media post, it is crucial to speak with an experienced employment lawyer who can decipher if you were truly fired for your post. Or was the firing hiding an illegal reason for letting you go?
- Social Media Posts and the Employee Conduct Handbook: You also need to review your employee conduct handbook. Many times it will indicate what a company’s policy is regarding social media posts.
It is also essential to understand the differences between a private company employer versus a public entity. Generally, you do not have First Amendment rights in the workplace. Only government employees have a right to free speech protections, and even those are very limited. In comparison, as a private employee, you may be fired for your speech. No matter if it is in the workplace or outside of it.
The Employer’s Rights
If an employee files a legal claim against their employer for creating a hostile workplace, sexual harassment, discrimination, or the assertion of any of their employee rights. The legal team for the employer is allowed to review all the social media accounts of the employee. As a result, an employee’s posts can be used to question their credibility.
- What Can The Employer Monitor? An employer can monitor an employee’s internet usage, software downloads, anything displayed on their computer screen, files stored on their computer, how long their computer has been idle, and any outgoing emails or those sent within the office. A simple rule to follow is that if the employee can do it on their work computer or a device provided for their work, they should expect their employer to monitor it.
- Can Social Media Posts Affect Your Job? An employer can fire you for having social media posts that they feel are inappropriate. This means that even if you do not have access to these sites while working or did not post anything during working hours, your employer can still fire you. Especially if they feel that any of your content is offensive to them, their potential clients, or reflects poorly on the company.
What it boils down to is the more offensive your social media posts are, the higher the chance that your employer will have a right to take some disciplinary action against you for them.
Remember, your social media will be reviewed if a lawsuit against your employer has been filed. Consequently, you need to be on high-alert of your social media usage, including your specific posts, emails, pictures, tweets, and videos. These social media postings can be used against you. As a result, make sure you exercise caution by taking the following measures:
- Do not accept any friend requests from anyone you do not know.
- Make sure to limit your privacy settings.
- Make sure to limit your electronic communications to people that you know and can verify who they are.
- Let your attorney know of any information or posts on your social media accounts that can hurt you. However, before you delete anything, make sure you check with your attorney. Many times the court may impose restrictions once a case is filed.
If you are an employee who is facing disciplinary action or was fired due to your social media posts, you need legal help that you can trust. At the law offices of Perkins Asbill, we can figure out if your employee rights were violated and help you take action if they were. Do not wait any longer. Contact us today or call our office at 916-446-2000.