Can I Legally Be Fired for a Facebook Post? Know Your Rights
Teacher terminated for venting about job on Facebook
Go back and look at your last month’s worth of Facebook posts. Do any of them have to do with work? More specifically, do any of your posts portray your job in a less-than-favorable light?
It’s not unusual for people to complain about their jobs on social media. But the question is: Can you legally be fired for doing so?
A Bad Day
That’s the question Christine Rubino raised after she was terminated for something she posted on Facebook.
Rubino was a 5th grade teacher with 15 years of experience teaching for the City of New York. She’d never had a disciplinary or performance issue during her teaching career.
However, after one particularly tough day on the job, she turned to Facebook to let off some steam. Referencing an incident that had been in the news the day before – in which a student on a field trip drowned – Rubino wrote: “After today, I am thinking the beach sounds like a wonderful idea for my 5th graders! I HATE THEIR GUTS! They are the devil’s spawn.”
One of Rubino’s coworkers copied the status update and showed it to the assistant principal.
Rubino was fired. She sued for reinstatement.
Rubino’s lawyer pointed out that Rubino had an unblemished employment record prior to the incident. In addition, her Facebook page was protected by privacy controls, so her statement could not have been viewed by students, parents, or the public.
Rubino won in state court, but the employer appealed.
However, Rubino won on appeal as well. The court stated that while Rubino’s comments were inappropriate, it was clear that her “purpose was to vent her frustration only to her online friends after a difficult day with her own students.”
(The case discussed here is Rubino v. New York.)
What Your Employer Can and Can’t Do
Situations related to work and social media posts can be complicated, but it’s important to remember that you have rights.
For example, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides some protection for employees who use social media outlets to address conditions at work, regardless of whether those employees are in a union.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be considered an invasion of privacy for supervisors to attempt to gain access to employees’ social media posts if those posts were not intended to be made public.
In some states, such as New Jersey, it’s illegal for an employer or potential employer to require staffers or applicants to disclose password and login information for personal electronic communications.
Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation
If you’ve been terminated, demoted, or treated unfairly due to social media activity, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.