By Sandra B. —

You’ve heard of stories where someone got fired for a posting – like when a fast food worker steps on lettuce dropped on the floor and puts it back in the bin.  They should have been fired.  But what about other postings?  Can a company discipline or terminate for any posting?  Here is what you should know:

Your Profile – When you filled out your profile or updated it, did you put your employer’s name?  If so, you may be opening yourself up to some unwanted scrutiny and unintentionally representing the company.  More concerning is when someone disagrees with you and reports you to your company, saying “I can’t believe your company employee would post something like that.” Thinking about posting something about the November election?  Responding that you do/do not agree with a religion, LGBTQ lifestyle, the #metoo movement or COVID shutdown?  Not only do innocent comments get twisted by 50 other responses, some readers will believe that your company has the same values you just posted about.  Generally, it’s best to leave the company name off your profile altogether to avoid any misunderstanding.

Your Comment – Can your posting be interpreted in any other way than which you intend it to be?  Is it vital to share?  If the posting is about work – pay, benefits or working conditions – it may fall under something called protected concerted activity.  The sparknotes version is an organization called the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) says that no action, including termination, can happen to an employee if their posting is to gather co-workers and bring forward an issue to the employer. So, where’s the line? “My boss sucks” is not protected activity, but “Ladies, 5pm meeting to talk about how we are going to fix that 1% raise when all the men got 3%” is protected.  Generally, personal venting is less likely to be protected while improvement of work conditions are.

When and What – So, can the company take an action if your comment does not fall under concerted protected activity?  Yes.  Did you log-in and post during your shift or on a company computer when you were supposed to be working? Did you threaten a co-worker or boss?  The company can issue you a warning or even terminate you.  So, be careful with when and what you use to make a casual posting like “If my boss makes me do filing one more time, I’m going to shoot up the place starting with him.”  Your intended casual comment is another person’s perceived threat and a company can take action.

The Final Reader – Even with restricted settings on your profile, your posting can still be shared or worse yet, a screenshot taken and re-posted, shared or forwarded to others via text.  Generally, think about who else could read your post/comment – your future hiring manager, company CEO, your parents, grandma, etc.  If you’d be embarrassed, then you probably shouldn’t post it.

Overall, be mindful of including your employer’s name on your profile, the types of comments you make and more importantly their short/long term consequences.  If you are unsure about where your company stands on social media, ask your manager or HR about the Company’s Social Media policy.