Did you know that you could potentially be fired for slander through social media posts? Online complaints about horrible bosses and unfair workplaces are no longer rare. However, unhappy workers should tread carefully as these postings could get them fired. In many cases, these firings are well-deserved.

While many would claim that free speech protects social media postings, the courts have not officially ruled that this is the case. Here are some valid reasons why employers should have the right to fire social misfits:

  1. The harder that the government makes it to fire employees the less likely employers are to hire more employees. Employers should have the right to terminate employees who no longer fit in with their company standards.
  2. Bad behavior is indicative of bad decision-making skills no matter where it takes place. What’s the difference between an employee who mouths off about a boss online and one who does it in the workplace? The answer is nothing. If it’s a fireable offense at work, it’s a fireable offense when you are not at work.
  3. Courts have ruled that companies have a right to expect employee loyalty. By paying a worker, companies have a right to demand that employees keep confidential information to themselves and not demean the company’s reputation.

However, employers do need to proceed with caution. Just because employers have a right to monitor an employee’s social media usage, doesn’t mean that they necessary should. Doing so may open a Pandora’s box that can never be closed again.

Here are some reasons employers may want use caution before cyber stalking an employee’s social media account:

  1. You may find out information that you can’t act on. There are many topics that are legally off-limits in job interviews and they are off-limits if you learn about them somewhere else too.
  2. You may learn things about an employee that you don’t like. Coworkers with different religious or political views can usually work together just fine as long as they don’t broach these touchy subjects. Learning that your employee has close affiliations with a political group you dislike can change how you view them and how you work with them.
  3. Bad postings are not always what they seem. While an employee may be an upright citizen now, they may have been a little wild in their youth. If a friend posts a college photo of them drinking it doesn’t mean they are a risk for your business. Employers should look for consistently bad behavior not a one-time posting faux pas.
  4. The only way to really see what employees are posting is to friend or follow them. However, employers who selectively pick and choose which employees to follow can be accused of favoritism or of singling out certain individuals.

In the end, companies should establish clear social media usage policies and communicate those policies to employees. For their part, employees should use caution when posting about any work related activities or individuals. That way, excessive monitoring doesn't have to occur and employees aren’t always looking over their online shoulder.

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