There are two constants in many people’s lives. Those include work and social media. Sometimes, the two might intersect. Employees may post pictures of themselves at work, or they may simply log onto a social media platform such as Facebook to vent about their work frustrations. Other times though, employees may also turn to social media for other reasons, such as trying to better their work conditions. So, is there ever a time when employees can rightfully be fired for what they post to social media?
There are certain protected activities under federal law for which employees cannot be fired. One of these may be discussing their employer or employment conditions with criticism. The law protects this activity because generally speaking, employees have the right to band together and make a concerted effort to try to improve their working conditions. When workers are talking about these conditions with the intent to better their work-life, that activity may be protected. The activity may not be protected if an employee has signed a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement, and certain rules apply to public employees.
Although there are many things employees can post on social media, there are also things they cannot post on these platforms. Trade secrets are included among these. Trade secrets get their name because they are the reason a company or brand is so successful. Exposing these secrets means that anyone can create a product or service, and that would devalue the business. Posting customer lists to social media is similar to posting trade secrets and is also a violation of those customers’ privacy, which could also result in termination.
Additionally, many employers have policies stating that employees are not to use social media or personal devices while at work. This is usually because some employers believe they are a distraction and make employees less productive while they are on the clock. In some instances, safety of the employee or the public is a concern such as for jobs in transportation or jobs that require use of dangerous machinery or hazardous materials. If employees go against these policies and post to social media at a time when they are not supposed to be on their device, this is a violation of company policy. For that violation, and not the actual posting, an employee may face termination.
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, it is important that you speak to a Columbus employment lawyer as soon as possible. At Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC, our attorneys can review the facts of your case and determine whether or not your employer had the right to terminate you under Ohio’s “at-will” employment doctrine. Call us today to discuss the “at-will” doctrine, your termination, and whether you may have legal recourse to address it.
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