Social Media and Your Employer: They Know, and It Can Hurt You

Smart employers check a job candidate’s social media accounts as part of the vetting and hiring process. Smart job seekers assume their digital footprint will be closely examined for any red flags. The First Amendment does not cover the private sector; employers won’t tolerate what an employee might see as free speech or other behaviors that the employer finds offensive.

That process continues after an employee is hired. The recent events in Charlottesville, VA, brought home the fact that employers have the right to fire an employee if there is evidence, such as a photo in the media or on Facebook, that the employee’s actions or speech is considered racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory and/or offensive. Several white supremacist protesters were fired from their positions when their employers decided they did not want to be associated with such activities.

This also applies to public sector employees. At least three first responders —a firefighter and two police officers—were suspended or placed on administrative leave after posting racist symbols, words or actions that their employers found to be inconsistent with their anti-discrimination policies. In this case, the posts mocked the death of a woman killed by a car driven by a protester.

Such conduct reflects poorly on an employer, whether they are in the private or public sector, and are grounds for disciplinary action, up to termination. Therefore, it is wise to think twice before posting. Even deleted posts are easily cached and shared. Employees should not be surprised that employers are looking at their social media accounts over their shoulders. They should expect it.