Social Network Privacy And Your Legal Rights – Part III
August 22, 2013
By Michael P. Malvey, Esquire
The law on social media is constantly changing. In my previous two blog posts on social media privacy I discussed how the content you or your friends post on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter can affect your personal injury case and I reviewed a number of recent cases that address when insurance companies can gain access to a Facebook user’s login and password. At Galfand Berger, our Philadelphia employment lawyers continue to recommend that you keep your social networking settings on the highest privacy settings, where only confirmed friends can see your posts. If you have any legal issues going on in your life, whether they are personal injury case or not, we strongly advise that you never comment about them on your Facebook or Twitter pages.
A common question we are asked about social network privacy is “Can I get in trouble at work for what I post on Facebook?” Stories about people being fired for Facebook posts often appear in the news, such as the case of the employee of the Philadelphia Eagles football team who was fired for criticizing the team on his personal Facebook page.
When trying to answer the question of whether you can get in trouble at work for what you post on Facebook, it is important to remember that in most states, unless you are bound by an employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement (such as membership in a labor union) you are considered an “at will” employee. At will employees can be terminated for any reason, provided that the basis for termination is not discriminatory in nature, and an employer does not need to show just cause for termination. Therefore, while an employer cannot terminate you because of your race, gender, age, or disability, in many cases there is nothing to prevent it from terminating you because you made negative comments about it on your Facebook or Twitter pages.
Given that the law generally favors the rights of an employer to terminate their employees at will, this gives companies a lot of freedom under the law for terminating employees for what they post on social networking websites. There are, however, some limitations on what type of social networking policies an employer can implement.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued annual opinions about what policies an employer is permitted to implement. The NLRB, which sets forth national guidelines on what employee activity is protected under the Freedom of Association under the United States Constitution, prohibits social media policies that do not allow employees to “friend” one another on Facebook or for making comments about their workplace on these websites. The NLRB does allow employers to enforce rules that prohibit posting of “confidential information” or from engaging in on-line bullying which could reflect poorly on the company. However, the NLRB is taking steps to insure that employers and companies cannot prevent its work forces from its rights to freely engage in social networking and/or interacting with their friends and colleagues.
At Galfand Berger we recommend that you always use good judgment in the types of materials you post on social networking websites. If you ever question whether it’s a good idea not to post something on a social media network, the mere fact that you are asking yourself this question is probably reason enough not to do it. Although many people use social networking as an outlet for their frustrations and emotions in all areas of life, remember that if you are speaking about your employer, there is a possibility that this could be grounds for termination. We recommend that you do not take the risk and share your feelings and concerns in a more private manner.
Call the Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Galfand Berger
If you have any questions about your legal rights with regard to social networking, please contact Galfand Berger’s employment lawyers in Philadelphia by dialing toll free at (800) 222-USWA, or contacting us online.