Can you be terminated for social media activity outside of work?

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2024 | Employment |

Social media is a big part of life, but it can cause problems at work. In California, firing someone for what they post online outside of work can lead to legal issues. Knowing the laws helps both employees and employers.

Employee privacy rights

California values privacy, even on social media. Employers need to be careful when they look at employees’ online posts. The state’s constitution gives people a right to privacy, which includes their social media activities. Employers must respect this right.

Protected activities

Some social media posts are protected by law. For example, discussing work conditions or pay on social media is protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Firing someone for these posts can lead to legal trouble for the employer as it may constitute wrongful termination.

Discrimination and retaliation

Employers cannot fire someone based on race, gender, religion, or other protected traits seen in social media posts. Also, firing someone for reporting problems at work, even if done on social media, can lead to legal issues. California’s whistleblower laws protect employees in these cases.

At-will employment and exceptions

California allows at-will employment, meaning employers can fire employees for any reason, as long as it is not illegal. But there are exceptions, like firing that go against public policy or break an implied contract. Employers should document reasons for firing to avoid wrongful termination claims.

Best practices for employers

Employers should have clear social media policies. These policies should explain what is acceptable online behavior and what happens if employees break the rules. Training helps employees understand how to act professionally online. Consulting legal experts before firing someone for social media activity ensures employers follow California laws and avoid legal problems.