Social Media and Firing in California

Social media presents an unprecedented way for people to share information. Posts are instant, and discussions on hot topics can be started. But with it comes the possibility of having posts that negatively affect businesses, as can happen when the posts expose bad business practices. Or it can happen when employees share complaints about poor work conditions, putting the company in bad light.


What are the employment policies regarding the use of social media in California? 

Seeing the effects that bad use of social media by their employees may have on business, some companies may have rules to curb it. Rules and regulations may involve not allowing employees to use social media during working hours.

Or the company may control what workers post on social media to ensure it conforms with company rules and is unlikely to hurt the business’s image. But companies need to be cautious when imposing the rules, lest they put the business in trouble, in case an employee decides to sue the company over such.


Can an employee be dismissed over a social media post? 

The answer is, yes, it is possible. A majority of states have the ‘at-will’ employment. It means that the employer and employee have equal rights to terminate an employment contract at will. This law gives an employer powers to lawfully terminate an employee’s’ contract based on a post they made on a social media platform. But other laws may still apply which may make such a termination illegal.


What laws may prohibit termination over a social media post? 

A termination based on ‘ at-will’ employment laws may be challenged if: 

  • The contract signed between the employer and employee states the grounds for summary dismissal. If termination from posts made on social media is not indicated in the contract, the employee may have reason to challenge the dismissal.
  • The labor guidelines issued by the NLRB (National Labor Relations. Board) indicate otherwise. The board issued a statement that seeks to protect employees who engage in discussions involving work-related issues, But the employee has to prove that others contributed to the discussion for the board’s protection guideline to apply.
  • If the affected person is a state employee. The First Amendment grants the right to express oneself freely, and employees can use it to argue against a termination they received for expressing themselves on social media. But this right doesn’t legally bind employers in the private sector.


Seeking legal redress in case of termination over a social media post? 

The legality of a termination an employer made on the basis of a media post would depend on various factors; the local laws of the state of California, the clauses contained in the employment contract, and the nature of the post. To decide to challenge the termination or not, the affected employee would need the advice of a lawyer. The lawyer would interpret for them the protection the law offers them, and what laws their employer violated by firing them.