Essential Question: Is inappropriate use of social media protected by the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment?
When you hear the words “Freedom of Speech”, you automatically think that you are allowed to say anything, anytime, or anywhere. Most people think that their social media posts are protected by the freedom of speech clause of the First Amendment. However, this is not the case for all employees in the work setting. Inappropriate posting on social media by employees is actually one of the biggest controversies surrounding the First Amendment.
If an employee posts something degrading on social media during working hours about their employer or coworker, they can be laid off. In contrast, if the employee was to do the same thing outside of work, they would actually be protected by the First Amendment. This is where the controversy comes in. According to the CNBC article How Using Social Media can get you Fired, 28% of employees were fired for inappropriate social media use in 2015. Additionally, in the USA Today article Social Media Free Speech Rights Complicated for Workers, a librarian in Minnesota was fired for criticizing her job outside of work on Facebook. Her posts were public, and her workplace found out. The librarian appealed that library violated her First Amendment right of freedom of speech. The former librarians appeal was not passed, and the decision stood because the library actually set a social media policy in place that the librarian agreed to when she applied for the job. Today, many workplaces are creating social media policies for their companies to make sure their workers know their boundaries when posting on social media, both inside and outside the workplace. Hopefully, these social media contracts will help prevent future situations of social media misconduct in the workplace.
Overall, many people take this part of the First Amendment for granted. Employees think that it is alright to bash their job after they get off work. Not only is this extremely unprofessional, but it also makes your employer look bad. When you have a job, think before you post.
Marohn, Kristi. “Social Media Free Speech Rights Complicated for Workers.” USA Today, 7 July 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/07/07/free-speech-rights-on-social-media-complicated-for-workers/2495721/.
Rapacon, Stacy. “How Using Social Media Can Get You Fired.” CNBC, CNBC, 5 Feb. 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/05/how-using-social-media-can-get-you-fired.html