Can a company fire you because of your personal social website?

UPDATED: Sep 19, 2013

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Can a company fire you because of your personal social website?

Asked on September 19, 2013 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that most businesses prohibit social networking on company time or posting anything negative about the company. Therefore, if your employor had a social networking policy and you violated it, that could be grounds for dismissal or at least disciplinary action.

Chances are you were in an "at will" employment relationship. This means that your employer could discharge you for any reason or no reason at all, so long as it did not violate any employment contract, union agreement that may have existed, or constitute unlawful discrimination. Accordingly, unless social networking at the work was part of your job duties, they should have refrained from engaging in such activity. 

It should be noted that while an employer has the right to take some form of action against an employee regarding prohibited uses of social media at work, if it has such a policy, it must enforce the policy and punish any use, not just the conduct that can result in disparaging the company. Additionally, many jurisdictions have laws which prohibit an employer from disciplining its employees from certain conduct outside of the workplace; many are written broadly enough to cover online activity. Finally, a social networking policy that is too restrictive may be a violation of an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 7 of the Act protects an employee's rights to participate in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Therefore, this section gives employees the right to speak out in an effort to improve conditions in the workplace. Consequently, social networking policies that prohibit such online activity that might be considered a violation an employee’s Section 7 rights.

Nathan Wagner / Law Office of Nathan Wagner

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, unfortunately, they probably can fire you because of what is on your personal website.

However, they cannot fire you in retaliation for protected conduct such as complaining about race, age, gender, or disability discrimination or whistleblowing about the company's illegal activities. So if, for example, they fired you because your website stands up against racism at work, that would be a wrongful termination. 

If you have any questions about how this applies to your situation, you should contact a local attorney who specializes in wrongful termination cases. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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