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Opinions shouldn’t cost you your job

Posted on 10.11.2017

Con: Using social media involves numerous risks for everyone, including being the grounds for getting fired from a job. A few weeks ago, employees at a naval hospital in Jacksonville, Florida were removed from patient care because of posts on Snapchat. According to the Miami Herald, these posts showed the employees calling infants “mini Satans,” flipping them off and forcing them to dance. Posting something like this on social media is not ok and it is completely acceptable to fire someone because of this. However, that is an extreme case and most people who are fired because of social media are fired because of social media posts outside of work. Social media should never be the “just because” for why someone is fired and it is not okay that this happens regularly in America.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and has the right to express it, even if you do not agree with it. Everyone also has the right to post what they want on social media, as long as it does not violate any laws or someone’s privacy. However, at some point the question of “how far is too far” has to be asked. Firing someone for posting, for example, death threats is one thing, but what if someone is fired for something else? What if someone is fired because of a personal belief? Let’s pretend that Bob and Pam (who aren’t real people, but are just here for this completely fictional example) work together and that Pam is Bob’s boss. At some point, Bob posts on Facebook that he did not enjoy the new “It” movie and Pam sees this post. The next day, Bob is fired by Pam because she absolutely loved the movie and can’t stand to have a Stephen King hater in her workplace. Now this sounds completely ridiculous does it not? Most people would assume that you can’t be fired for that. However, you actually can be, and that’s the problem.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech in all forms of communication and media. But in private workplaces, while the amendment prevents the government from infringing on the right of free speech, it does not protect you from being fired for expressing your beliefs. This means that you can be fired for simply expressing your own opinion and beliefs. Hypothetically, someone could post their own wedding pictures on Facebook and be fired because of it. Now, would that actually happen? Probably not, but several U.S. states have laws regarding “at-will employment,” meaning that you can be fired without any just cause, with exceptions created by of other laws and contracts. The National Labor Relations Board also has issued guidance on social media as a cause for being fired. They have come to the conclusion that you can’t be fired for things that are considered “protected activities.” These activities, according to the NLRB, include discussing working conditions, unions and anything else that is considered protected under federal labor laws.

The United States is supposed to be a place where you do not have to live in fear of being persecuted for your opinions, yet, there seems to be a loophole when it comes to freedom of speech in private workplaces. This is wrong, at least in my eyes. If you work for the government, you do not have to worry about this happening. Your right to free speech is universally guaranteed. It is ridiculous that private businesses get an unnecessary exception to the First Amendment. Everyone should be allowed to post their opinions on social media without having to worry about being fired just because someone in a position of authority does not like what they’re saying. The same goes for someone is participating in an activity an employer may not like. The employer is allowed to disagree with your decision, but should not have the right to fire you because of it.

No one should be fired for what they post on social media. We cannot have freedom of speech if people have to live in fear of being fired for what they post on social media. We cannot be a truly free country if all it takes is one post, one post that did not meet someone else’s standards, for someone to be fired.

Noah Crenshaw

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