It may seem like your social media presence has nothing to do with your professional life. However, with so much of our lives playing out on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, statements we make or behaviors we exhibit on social media can trigger consequences at work.
Violating social media policies
Some employers have policies governing social media use by employees. Violating these policies may lead to disciplinary action, so make sure to check your employee handbook for your employer’s rules on:
- Visiting social media sites while working
- Creating content about work or while on work property
- Accessing social media sites using company-provided equipment
If you have questions regarding your employer’s social media policy, you can talk to your employer or speak with an attorney to try and get answers.
Bullying or harassing others
While your employer may not be able to control what you say on your personal social media accounts, they can potentially fire you for content you post online.
Most employment relationships in New York are at will, which means that your employer can fire you for any reason that’s not unlawful or for no reason at all. If your employer believes that you posted offensive content, bullied others, or harassed people on social media, you may be subjected to discipline up to and including the termination of your employment.
Don’t assume that “private” is actually private
Sending a message or posting content anonymously or privately doesn’t guarantee privacy. Even if you change your profile name and use a generic image for your avatar, it is possible to trace statements or accounts back to you. It is far easier to share, send, or track down information online than people think.
Making statements about your employer online
Employees who vent about their employers online or otherwise make their employers look bad to the public may run into issues if their employers find out. While the law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who post on social media about unsafe working conditions, unlawful wage practices, and discrimination by their employers, certain employment-related statements can still trigger adverse actions, including termination.
For instance, an employee may lose their job if they share company trade secrets or information covered under a confidentiality clause in the employee’s employment agreement. And making untrue comments designed to harm your employer– and mentioning them by name – could land you in hot water.
Avoiding these missteps can help you avoid legal consequences and termination. That said, there are many gray areas regarding this subject, so it can be crucial to consult an attorney if you have concerns.