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Smith Welch Webb & White Blog

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Can I Get Fired for Using Social Media at Work?

If I occasionally take a break at work to check my social media accounts, will I risk losing my job? 

As an employment law attorney practicing in Henry County, Georgia, I am often asked this question.  The use of social media at work can be a complicated area of employment law that touches on major pillars of our legal system and our economy, with freedom of speech and employees’ right to privacy in the workplace on one hand, and the company’s rights to protect proprietary information and protect their reputation on the other. 

Not all employers ban social media at work.  Policies vary by employer and should be clearly spelled out in company policies.  Some argue that employees are more productive after taking occasional breaks because they return to their work focused and refreshed.  The same company may take a similar stance for allowing short personal phone calls and other brief forms of personal time on the clock. 

However, that position is not universal.  Employees should not just assume that social media is tolerated at work, especially when using a company-owned computer and Internet connection.   

The issues associated with the use of social media use at work are closely related to employees’ right to privacy in the workplace.  The extent to which an employee has a right to privacy at the workplace varies between government and private entities, and by the work environment.  For example, if you work for a privately held company and you are using a company-owned computer, your employer may be able to legally monitor your computer use with software that lets them view whatever appears on your computer screen and stored in your terminal.  Some employers many also monitor Internet usage, including web-surfing and e-mail.  The same logic can be applied to company-owned phones, including email, Internet use and text messages. 

Even if your employer takes a liberal approach to social media in the workplace, it does not give employees free license to badmouth co-workers and the company’s products.  This is a complicated area of law, influenced by our constitutional right to free speech and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Laws are also in effect that protect businesses from slanderous or libelous statements, and gives companies the right to protect their confidential information and intellectual property rights.

So how can employers and employees ensure they are in compliance?    

Employers should have clearly written policies on Internet and social media use at the workplace.  These policies should be written in plain language that is easy to understand, and clearly outline the expectations for personal Internet use at work on personal and company-owned devices.  Any changes or updates to workplace Internet policies should be shared with both new and existing employees.  An experienced employment law attorney is key when creating or updating your organization’s Internet use policies, and a valuable resource for employees who have questions about compliance. 

For more information about Employment Law, contact Lajuana Ransaw  or call 770-957-3937.  Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the State of Georgia with expertise in this area of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and our community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

 

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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Smith Welch Webb & White serve clients throughout the south metro Atlanta area including but not limited to McDonough, Stockbridge, DeKalb County, Clayton County, Henry County, Peach County, Jonesboro, Spalding County, Butts County, and Lamar County.



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