Social media is a both a curse and a gift. Many people use social media to keep up with the latest trends, keep in touch with family and friends (which has become extremely important during the pandemic), and keep up with the news. For many, this is a way to stay connected, to stay in the know, and to stay involved in the lives of the ones we love.

For others, social media is a place to stay updated on world events. Furthermore, some use social media to communicate with the world and post their views, feelings, and theories on current events and issues important to them. This is where the danger starts.

Many feel that they can post with anonymity by “hiding behind their keyboard.” Others simply don’t care if they offend someone or make themselves look bad. Posting opinions is one thing, but when that opinion leads to a negative view of the writer, or even worse, the writer’s employer, the results can be devastating. Yes, you can be disciplined or fired for what you post on your personal social media accounts.

In general, an employer can fire an employee for almost any lawful reason, including what you post on social media. If the post or the position you take in the post is seen as offensive and the employer feels it will damage their business’ reputation, you can be disciplined or fired.

However, there are some protections in place. Of course, there’s the free speech angle. The problem with free speech protections is they apply to government entities and not to private employers. So, if you are employed by the government, you may have a free speech right. A person working in the private sector may not have that same protection. Other laws in place apply to both public and private employers. These laws include anti-discrimination, anti-retaliation, and whistleblower laws. Connecticut also has a prohibition against discriminating against someone based on their political affiliation. While these laws could be double-edged swords, they may be a defense if you get fired for posting something your boss doesn’t agree with.

In the end though, protecting yourself, your job, and your reputation requires some forward thinking. Here are a few tips to help prevent you from having to use some of the protections we spoke about above.

One, don’t post while upset. If something is bothering you, don’t run right to your phone or computer and start typing. Wait until you calm down and can think rationally about what you’re writing. This may prevent you from posting something you will regret later.

Next, don’t post something you wouldn’t want your mother or grandmother to read. If you think your mother or grandmother will find your post offensive, chances are others will too.

Lastly, remember, everything you post will always be out there. Even if you remove a post down the line, there is a very good chance that someone has saved the post. These posts, even if acceptable now but not in the future, have come back to ruin people’s careers. Be mindful of the fact that once something goes out onto the web, you can never fully take it back. It’s out there forever, thus can follow you forever.

In closing, social media can be a gift when used properly, but can get you fired or worse, when you’re not careful about what you post. I don’t want to discourage the use of social media, but if you’re going to use it, use it responsibly.

If you’ve been disciplined or fired because of what you posted on social media or have concerns about past posts, please give us call so we can help you work through it.