Some people think they can post anything they want on social media without being fired because it’s protected free speech. Some companies believe they can fire employees for anything they post on social media if it doesn’t meet their policies. So, can you be fired for Facebook posts.
Both are wrong. People can be fired for Facebook posts or other certain social media activities. But companies can’t take action simply because they don’t like what an employee has posted on social media.
One of the first people to be fired for Facebook posts is Heather Armstrong, a blogger in Utah. She was fired from her job because she wrote articles for social media and her website, www.dooce.com, that commented on behaviors in her workplace. Since then, being fired for what you post online has come to be referred to as “dooced.”
So who can be dooced and who can’t?
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is an independent federal agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act—a law that protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at their job whether or not they have a union. For the last several years, the NLRB has fielded complaints from people who feel they were wrongly fired for Facebook posts and other things they posted online. After extensive study, the Board, along with employment attorneys, decided that social media posts that qualify as “concerted activity” should not lead to termination. This means that if an employee or group of employees discuss real concerns about the company or use social media to take group action against an employer, they cannot legally be fired.
For example, the NLRB ruled in favor of five employees of a nonprofit organization who were fired for Facebook posts about a co-worker who intended to complain to management about their job performance. Also, an employee concerned about workplace safety hazards can ask co-workers about their experiences through social media without being legally fired.
Another area where employees are generally protected is posting anything that does not involve their employer. California is one of several states that does not allow employers to penalize employees for any lawful activities they do off the job that doesn’t involve the employer. This means as long as you are not breaking the law or mentioning the company you work for, you can post to social media without fear of being fired for Facebook posts for example.
However, a company does have the right to fire a worker who uses social media to individually complain about the company, a manager or a co-worker. A person can also legally be fired for making threats, harassing a co-worker or giving away company secrets through social media.