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Can you be fired for social media posts?

Many people vent about anything and everything on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. If you're venting about the incompetent colleague you're stuck on a project with or mocking your employer, however, you could find yourself unemployed. Even if you're sharing good news, like a new product your company is going to be rolling out, you could be violating corporate policies.

Even political opinions or other sentiments shared online (or captured on someone else's phone and shared on social media) can cost you your job. We've all seen instances of someone who posted a racist comment online or was caught on video harassing someone. It doesn't take long for the "Twitterverse" to identify them and their employer and call for them to lose their job. If a company finds itself publicly embarrassed by an employee's words or actions, it may feel it has no choice but to terminate them.

Some companies have social media rules for their employees, but many don't. Since most people are "at-will" employees, they can be fired for just about any reason as long as it's not based on a protected characteristic like race or gender.

If your employer doesn't have a written policy on social media posts, here are some common-sense guidelines:

  • Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say to your boss or the head of your company.
  • Don't share information about your company, its employees or clients that isn't already public.
  • Don't post anything that you wouldn't want anyone and everyone at work to see. No matter how good your privacy settings are, you can't guarantee that something won't be shared. If you took a sick day to go to the beach, don't post pictures.
  • When in doubt, don't post. Even if you delete it a few minutes later, someone can still capture a screenshot, and it could come back to haunt you.

If you're in the process of job hunting, remember that prospective employers can also look at your social media posts -- particularly if they aren't private. While you may only go out drinking with friends on occasion, if your Instagram makes it seem like you're out partying every night, companies may hesitate to take a chance on you, no matter how stellar your qualifications.

If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated, find out what your legal rights really are.

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