By Susan Smith Blakely • January 31, 2018
From time to time I write about the use of personal social media and the caveats for women lawyers. In fact, my recommendation consistently has been that you get off personal social media all together. But, I know how attached some of you are to instant feedback and gratification, so I continue to write about it. You need to be reminded about the pitfalls of using social media on a regular basis. Eyes and ears are everywhere.
Here is a scenario and question posed on a website addressing this issue. The answer to the question may surprise you because many of you view your time away from the office and what you do on that time as completely personal and untouchable by your employer. Well, think again.
"I posted something on my personal Facebook page that my employer found offensive and I was subsequently fired. It wasn’t about the company and was done during my own time. Isn’t that an infringement on my First Amendment rights? Can they fire me for expressing myself just because they didn’t like my message?"
Here is a summary of the answer provided on that website:
- The First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech in most circumstances, but that does not apply to private employers.
- In most circumstances, a private employer can fire an employee for what he or she writes and says online and off. Limited exceptions include protection by whistleblower laws if the employee is exposing unlawful or unethical activities within the employer company.
- Many employers review the social-media profiles of prospective employees and may make decisions about whether to hire based on those posts. Employers also can fire someone if the employer concludes that an activity undermines the employee’s role, authority or the company.
Please pay close attention. As the website post points out, many careers are damaged by social media messages and advancement of those messages. Beware of these far-reaching effects and post with caution --- if you insist on posting.
Better to be safe than sorry.
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law. She is author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another. Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.
Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Lawyerist. Com, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division. She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law, and she is the recipient of a Lawyer Monthly Women in Law Award 2016.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com