The number of cases reported by the NLRB (National Relations Labor Board), a federal agency that brings labor-related complaints on behalf of workers, has seen the number of cases involving social media skyrocket from zero to more than 100 cases over the past five years!
Clearly, monitoring and creating legislation for the use of and determining the potential liability when using these sites, is needed. This will be a hotly contested topic for most of us that want to say whatever we want on our social media sites without repercussion from our employers. Most people believe that they are protected by their First Amendment rights under federal guidelines, yet much of the litigation is falling under state jurisdiction, so there is no uniformity in the law.
One of the more popular cases pending was filed in 2011, in Virginia by Daniel Ray Carter and five others who were fired by the then sheriff in Hampton, VA based on the fact that they were not “entirely onboard” with his re-election efforts. Carter had used the “like” button on Facebook for the sheriff’s rival while working for him. The sheriff saw the “like” on Carter’s FB page and after he got elected, he fired Carter from his deputy sheriff’s job.
The question being debated is whether Carter is protected under his First Amendment rights or not? There is no simple answer to this complicated question. And the consequences may differ between the private and public sector employers.
Some analysts say that private employers do not have an obligation to recognize their employee’s free speech rights and becauseWisconsin, for example, is an “at will” employment state that a private employer may discipline or terminate you without a reason, as long as the adverse employment action is not based on your association with a protected class.
The ongoing debate of whether we have a right to post anything we chose to or to support whoever we want on social media sites without repercussion, even if it’s a rival to our company, will continue until federal and state laws are created that clearly defines our rights as employees and employers and where to draw the line.
I will say that I do think we need to be responsible as employees and not to disparage our current employer in social media. It is in poor taste and could damage your career. Other companies you are looking to work for may take notice and look at you as a traitor and not a team player
So, as I always recommend, watch what you post on your social media sites. It could come back to haunt you and ruin your career!
Tags: career, Daniel Ray CArter, employee rights, employer rights, employment, Facebook, Facebook Like button, First Amendment rights, job seeker, LinkedIn, NLRC, social media, social media law, social media sites, unemployment