Is it legal for an employer to discipline and retaliate against me for a private text message I sent to a co-worker outside of work hours?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it legal for an employer to discipline and retaliate against me for a private text message I sent to a co-worker outside of work hours?

I sent a text message from my personal cell phone to a co-worker and the co-worker shared my text

with our supervisor and my text message was then printed off and shared with the business owner who then disciplined and retaliated against me when I returned to work. They also placed the printed off text message in my personnel file at work.

Asked on January 29, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Did your treatment violate any appliable union agreement/employment contract? Did it constitute some form of legally actionable discrimination/retaliation (note: illegal retaliation has to do with discrimination, pursuing a wage claim, etc., not the case here)? If not, then your company's action was perfectly permissable. The fact is that in an "at will" employment relationship, a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit. Further, a worker can be teminated, suspended or otherwise disciplined for any reason or no reason at all. Accordingly, your employer's action was legal.

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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