The following is a re-post of an article by Julie Tappendorf from The Municipal Minute, an Ancel Glink local government blog that she edits...
We've reported frequently on employees "behaving badly" on social media and being disciplined and even terminated for postings, even when those posts are made on their private social media sites and on their own time. As a general rule, an employer can discipline employees for personal social media activities, so long as those activities do not constitute protected activity (i.e., First Amendment protected speech, matters of public concern, protected concerted activities, etc). Individual gripes about your job or your boss are typically not protected and can subject an employee to discipline.
An employee at a retirement facility was recently terminated for her social media posts that included the following:
- “Today was the worst!!!!!!!!!”
And, in a post that appeared to be directed at her co-workers:
- “Thanks for helping out...Oh wait I am a team of 1 because others have meetings or they to [sic] lazy to get up to help someone.”
Reportedly, the employee says she was forced to resign for violating the employer's social media policy. She claims her employer's social media policy prohibits employees from making online comments that might embarrass the company, and that policy violates her right to discuss workplace conditions.
We'll certainly keep an eye on this case as it moves forward. Based on the information available on this case, it appears that her posts fall more in the "individual griping" category (not protected) rather than activities protected by labor laws such as discussion of salary and working conditions (protected). That being said, even if this particular employee's posts were not protected and if her termination is upheld, the employer's social media policy could still be found invalid if it is so broad in scope that it could be interpreted to cover protected activities.
You can read more about the case and the employee's claims in the Roanoke Times here.