How social media can get you fired

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- One click on social media can reach hundreds of people. But the wrong post could reach your boss and cost you your job.

“Once you let it go it's out there for everyone to see,” Raleigh Levine, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said.

In fact, Levine said more and more employers are watching what their employees' post.

“Employers often feel that the employees are representing the employer to the world and if the employee is coming off as racist or sexist or homophobic an employer is not going to want to be seen as condoning that kind of viewpoint,” she said.

The line between public and private posts doesn’t really exist. Even if there are privacy settings someone can always retweet or take a screenshot of the post, according to Levine. And forget about citing the First Amendment.

“What most people don't understand is that the First Amendment, which is our constitutional protection, only applies against the government and not against private parties, including private employers,” Levine said.

So in the case of TV anchor Wendy Bell, who was fired for a racially charged Facebook post, Levin believes her private employer had the right to fire her.

However, public employees have more protection. Take for example St. Paul Police Sgt. Jeff Rothecker, who resigned in February, after complaints about his Facebook post telling people how to run over Black Lives Matter protestors.

“Because he was a public employee and the speech was on the matter of public concern, something in which the public is very interested and its relevant and in the news, it's much more difficult to fire him than a private employer,” she said.

So, if you have something to say about an issue how do you say it without getting fired?

“You don't say anything on social media that you wouldn't say directly to your boss,” Levine said.


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