Answer YES if your employer is not a…

Answer: YES….if your employer is not a government agency.

Many employees think that they are protected by “freedom of speech” found in the First Amendment to the Constitution. This may be true if your employer is a government agency, however, the first amendment does not otherwise apply to non-government employers. If you work for a big corporation or a small company, they CAN fire you if you criticize them on Facebook or elsewhere. The reason for this is that most states have “employment at will” which allows an employer to fire employees at any time for any reason, or no reason at all. Facebook postings are NOT protected speech under the First Amendment when it concerns a job with a non-government employer.

If a non-government employer fires you for Facebook comments, you may still be able to collect unemployment, because your exercise of free speech (especially if true) is typically not a legitimate grounds for termination. As such, the unemployment board will often allow unemployment compensation in this situation.

Because of “employment at will”, an employee will often have no remedy for being fired due to a Facebook posting or any other critical comment about their employer. In most states, the only remedies come from federal and state civil rights statutes, namely, discrimination based on age, race, sex, national origin, religion or disability. Unless you can connect your termination due to a Facebook posting to discrimination, there will generally be no valid claim for wrongful termination.

It is important for employees to keep these general rules in mind when they seek to express their feelings about work, over the internet.

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Bruce Coane is a leading lawyer with 30 years of experience in the field of immigration law and employment law. He may be reached via email at houstonlaw@aol.com or his website at Coane and Associates.

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