Social Media Posts Can Have Employment Consequences
September 8, 2015
Social media and networking sites have experienced incredible growth over the past decade. While relatively new, this technology and way of interacting has been adopted by people of every age group around the world. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of adults who are online use social networking sites. Social networking sites allow people to share their thoughts, photographs, and content that they find elsewhere on the web.
Employers May Monitor Social Media
These sites allow for unprecedented connectivity and interaction between people in real time, a fact that can have both positive and negative consequences. More and more employers are using social media to monitor their employees and investigate people who have applied for jobs. As a result, many people who post details about their personal lives may experience adverse employment consequences as a result of their employer or potential employer seeing it. Imagine, for example, an employee who had forgotten that he or she added her boss as a friend when she first took a position, and then used social media to disparage the way that her boss treated her or others at work. This kind of post could conceivably result in a completely legitimate termination for which the employee would have no legal recourse. Accordingly, employees or job seekers should always consider the potential consequences when sharing information about themselves on social networking websites
Adverse Employment Action Based on Social Media Posts
California is an At-Will employment state, meaning that an employer does not need a reason to terminate an employee. If, however, the employer terminates an employee for a reason made impermissible under state or federal law, the terminated employee would have the right to file a discrimination claim against the employer. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from terminating or taking other adverse employment action against employees who have engaged in activity protected by federal or state law.
In order to have a cause of action, an employee must be able to show that he or she was discriminated against for a reason prohibited by law. In California, some of these prohibited reasons include the following:
Age (over 40)
Physical or mental disability
Political affiliation or activity
Of course, some of these characteristics are apparent simply by looking at someone or may come up in the hiring process. Others, however, such as sexual orientation or political affiliation, may be personal matters that are inadvertently revealed through a social media post. If you believe that your social media posting has resulted in termination or other adverse employment action due to an impermissible reason, you should contact an attorney immediately.