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Can You Be Fired for a Facebook Post?

You can be fired for online postings, even when accessing the Internet from home.  Learn about the federal and state laws that may protect you.

By
Adam Freedman
May 11, 2011

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Today’s topic: Can you be fired for Facebook posts? 

And now, your daily dose of legalese:  This article does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.  In other words, although I am a lawyer, I’m not your lawyer.  In fact, we barely know each other. If you need personalized legal advice, contact an attorney in your community.

Can You Be Fired for Facebook Comments?

The other day I received an email asking: “What are the grounds for firing someone based on what they say publicly; specifically on social networking sites? Is freedom of speech guaranteed in the workplace?”  The question came from somebody who is evidently very concerned about liability for online comments.  In fact, the email is signed “John Doe.”   Well, John (or whatever your name is), the quick answer is that employers have very broad powers to discipline or fire employees for what they say online, whether on social networking sites, blogs, or other online forums.  As I’ll explain in a minute, there are some limited protections for online activities, but for the most part, this is not an issue of “free speech.”

Before I go any further, let me talk about something you can do online that won’t get you fired: hosting meetings! That’s why I highly recommend GoToMeeting - by CITRIX.  As a listener of Legal Lad, you can try GoToMeeting FREE for 30 Days.  That’s a month of UNLIMITED online meetings FREE! Visit GoToMeeting.com, click on the TRY IT FREE button and enter the promo code podcast. 

Does the Employer Need “Grounds” To Fire You?

Let me start by clearing up a couple misconceptions.  First, John’s question assumes that an employer must have “grounds” to fire an employee for social networking comments.   That’s not necessarily true.  As I explained in an earlier article, if you’re what’s known as an “at-will” employee, then either you or your employer can terminate the relationship for any reason whatsoever.  Thus, an employer generally doesn’t have to justify the dismissal of an at-will employee.  

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