Social media usage has become the norm for many people. As of May 22, 2018, Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly active users. The next most used social media sites are YouTube at 1.8 billion and Instagram at 800 million. It’s safe to say that social media usage is not going to decline any time soon.
Social media usage is so common that many public figures’ posts make the news on a daily basis. Whether it is President Trump’s tweet on Twitter, Chrissy Teigen’s post on Instagram or Kim Kardashian’s snap on Snapchat – it’s making the news. However, it’s not just famous people whose social media posts go viral.
At any given time, anyone’s social media post can be viewed, screenshotted and shared amongst the masses. Even with the best security and privacy settings these posts are never truly private. Like the fastest game of “Telephone,” what is shared on social media, if controversial enough, will spread like wildfire.
A public example is Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet on Twitter in May 2018. It took mere hours from the moment Roseanne shared her tweet to when ABC canceled her show, ‘Roseanne.’ ABC Entertainment, through its President, Channing Dungey, publicly stated “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.” Roseanne was terminated from her employment with ABC within 24 hours.
This very example has become a reality for numerous individuals who are not famous. As advocates for employees, we believe their social lives should be separate from their professional lives. Unfortunately, there is a trend where employers do not hold the same separation between employees’ social and professional lives.
Employers are creating social media policies to address its employees’ social media usage, even outside the workplace and normal work hours, that could potentially lead to discipline. When our firm is contacted by employees who face this issue, the first question we ask is whether there is an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement in place that would address the matter.
Outside of contractual protections, most employees are considered at-will. In a nutshell, an at-will employee can be terminated for any reason, except for an illegal one. There are a number of exceptions to at-will employment, however, it all turns on the particular facts of the situation.
Further, if the client is a public employee, there are potential Constitutional and statutory protections to consider which turns on the particular position held and facts of the situation.
I strongly encourage anyone facing this issue to contact our firm and seek a consult. In the meantime, I strongly suggest you refrain from posting, sharing, tweeting and snapping anything that you would not be comfortable with being plastered on the front page of the news. This is the reality in the social media world we now live in.
 Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites and Apps [May 2018], https://www.dreamgrow.com/top-15-most-popular-social-networking-sites/, accessed June 19, 2018.