Can You Be Fired for Your Social Media Posts in California?
What does California’s employment law say about firing an employee for their social media posts? Can your employer legally terminate your employment for something you posted on social media?
The answer to this question is, “It depends.”
Since California is an at-will employment state — and California Labor Code 2922 states that at-will employees “may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other” — employers can fire employees for anything, including their social media posts.
Under certain circumstances, however, firing an employee for their online activity may be unlawful. If you have any questions about whether your social media posts could cost you your job — or if you believe you were unlawfully terminated for your social media posts — it is best to discuss your particular situation with an experienced wrongful-termination lawyer in Los Angeles at Obagi Law Group, P.C.
When Posting on Social Media is a ‘Concerted Activity’
Though California is an at-will state, its labor laws prohibit employers from firing employees for an illegal reason (e.g., discrimination or retaliation). Also, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities” without fear of termination.
In other words, employees may discuss their jobs and work-related issues with their coworkers without fear of retaliation. The right extends to discussions of workplace conditions, complaints about the job, and complaints about the employer.
Thus, the law could potentially protect employees who wish to discuss workplace conditions or complain about their employer on social media. However, the law only applies when the employee discusses the issue with a coworker. Whether the “concerted activity” protection is applicable depends on the circumstances.
Per the NLRB:
“Just individually griping about some aspect of work is not ‘concerted activity’: what you say must have some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or bring a group complaint to the attention of management. Such activity is not protected if you say things about your employer that are egregiously offensive or knowingly and deliberately false, or if you publicly disparage your employer’s products or services without relating your complaints to any labor controversy.”
When Firing an Employee for Social Media Posts is Discrimination
Even in an at-will state, termination that is discriminatory in nature is illegal. In other words, if an employer fires a worker for their social media posts based on the employee’s race, national origin, color, religion, sex or other protected-class status, they violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Proving that termination over a social media post is discriminatory, however, would be challenging. If you believe you were fired over a social media post and that the termination was discriminatory, consult with a Los Angeles wrongful-termination lawyer to discuss your legal options.
When an Employee’s Social Media Post Violates Employment Agreements
Under certain circumstances, an employer can legally fire an employee for a social media post when the post violates an employment agreement. For example, an employee may violate an employment agreement if their posts expose the employer’s trade secrets, damage the company’s reputation, or paint their employer in a bad light.
Also, an employee could be legally fired for using social media at work. So, if an employer sees that their employee’s social media post was published during working hours, they may have legal grounds for termination.
If you were fired for a social media post, you should consult with an experienced Los Angeles wrongful-termination lawyer to determine whether you have been wrongfully terminated. Contact our lawyers at Obagi Law Group, P.C., to receive a consultation. Call 424-284-2401 today.