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Work and social media Part II: Can employers restrict speech?

In Part I of this series, we discussed the social media privacy rights employees hold across the country – and the lack thereof in Texas.

In addition to accessing employees’ social media accounts, employers have also begun to monitor social media pages for work-related content. Employees have faced serious consequences at work for posts about company trade secrets.  

Many people use social media as a platform to occasionally vent about work, but can it really get you fired?

Posts about conditions in your workplace

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects every worker’s right to discuss workplace conditions. Originally meant to encourage collective bargaining, the NLRA gives union and non-union employees alike the right to talk about:

  • Wage issues
  • Poor benefits
  • Extensive work hours
  • Difficulties with management

An employer also cannot retaliate against you for reporting OSHA violations or other safety issues at work.

Employees who believe they experienced retaliation based on social media use or polices have options. First, this kind of retaliation qualifies you for a civil lawsuit. Employees can also take their case before the National Labor Relations Board.

First Amendment issues on social media

Many people believe anything they say online is protected by the First Amendment. But in reality, most employers have more control over your speech than you’d think. Technically, the only workplaces that must follow Constitutional free speech rules are government employers. But, state law can provide protection for private sector employees.  

To learn more about your social media rights at work, the best place to start is your organization’s social media policy. Local employment attorneys can also help you protect yourself, your job, and your social media accounts.

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