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Can using a social media profile cause a person's termination?

When individuals in Texas and across the country need to get a message to a large group of people at once, many turn to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A woman who worked for a university in another state thought she was doing a good deed by posting some photos on Facebook to catch some vandals, but it resulted in her termination instead. She has filed a lawsuit in a state court against the school, four of its employees and its research and development group.

The plaintiff was working on a project to make development plans for a historic glass house. The woman alleges that in May 2015, the property was vandalized. Surveillance cameras apparently caught the individuals in the act so that they could be identified.

The woman turned to social media. She posted the still images of the vandals -- who were apparently minors -- on her personal Facebook profile so that a larger number of people could view them and potentially identify the trespassers. However, she claims that her intent to catch the perpetrators caused a negative reaction from the university. She was removed from her position five days after posting the information on Facebook.

West Virginia State University maintains that the reason for her termination was because she publicly posted the images without approval, which could possibly result in liability and legal issues, especially since the people in the photos were minors. According the complaint, the woman contends that she was exercising her First Amendment right to post the images and that firing her was a violation of her freedom of speech. Texas employees who have had similar experiences after using any social media platform may benefit from consulting with an experienced employment law attorney to determine what legal steps may be appropriate.

Source: courthousenews.com, "Woman Says Facebook Photos Led to Firing", Kevin Lessmiller, Jan.7, 2016

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