Can What I Say on Facebook Cause Me Legal Problems?
“I can’t believe I was fired from my job over simply expressing my personal views about outcome of the election,” exclaimed a client who recently called our office to inquire whether her employer could really get away with this.
Presently our firm represents several individuals in five states, all of whom were terminated from career-long positions over comments they posted on their private Facebook pages. We could never have predicted such an influx of cases even three years ago.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and other social media have become the modern public square in which individuals freely express often divers views on public issues affecting their local communities and the nation. The Supreme Court, in Packingham v. North Carolina, recognized that social media, like all forms of free speech is protected by “a fundamental First Amendment principle” that all persons have access to places where they can speak. But Packingham addressed whether government may restrict access to social media. What about private employers? May they impose such restrictions on their employees who seek to exercise this right during off-duty time
Many employers today have social media policies that broadly proscribe certain types of expression by their employees, even during their off hours. Unwary employees are increasingly finding themselves ensnared by these policies, particularly when their comments run counter to the prevailing mainstream narrative on a given issue. The following are just a few examples of employees
whom we are representing that lost their jobs over Facebook posts:
A nurse in North Carolina commented “All lives matter and BLM is a political trick to upset a group of people to riot and terrorize!”
An anesthetist in Florida remarked on her Facebook: “These acts [referring to Antifa] are not all about injustice and racism. The devil incarnate is out in the form of rioters and assaulters.”
A state employee in Tennessee criticized a state policy calling for the early release of drug offenders in response to the Covid-19 crisis by stating: “The Governor is forbidding parole officers to put parolees in jail for unlimited drug abuse.
The director of a library in Kentucky was fired for posting: “The concept of race is not biblical. There are not higher races and lower races of people. There is only ONE race, the human race.”
In many of these cases, the employer would never have known of the employee’s Facebook post had others, who negatively reacted to it, not contacted them. The practice of attacking another on the basis of one’s disagreement with their social media remarks is called “doxing”. Doxing is defined as the act of searching for and publishing private or identifying information about a particular individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent of bringing about their termination.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by their comments on social media, we encourage you to contact an attorney. To receive an initial free consultation, you may contact our firm at www.crainlaw.legal
– Larry L. Crain