I have been terminated by my place of employement because of a comment I posted on Facebook. The comment was a disgruntled remark about something that happened at work, although no names or places were included in the comment. My question is, is it really legal for employers to do this? I know mine isn't the only case like this, and other employers also do this. Why is this legal, and not a violation of my First Amendment right to free speech? And do I have any legal recourse?
State/Country relating to question: Pennsylvania
Other than trying to reason with my immediate supervisor, I have done nothing about it so far. It happened three days ago.
Good morning,I'm sorry to hear of the situation.The fact is that employers are looking at internet postings by their employees---and prospective employees----and making decisions to terminate or not hire, based on the actions occurring outside of the workplace, and under both Pennsylvania law, and federal employment and constitutional laws, this is entirely permitted.Many of your constitutional rights are to protect you solely from the government---federal, state and local. Freedom of speech may only not be interfered with by officials of the government. Your professor can tell you not to speak in class, your employer may tell you not to disparage the company, or co-employees, on Facebook. Private employers are virtually unconstrained by the first amendment unless the particular activity you are engaged in is also protected. While disparaging the company on the internet may be grounds for Termination, if your employer objects to the fact that you espouse a particular religious bent on facebook, the employer may NOT interfere with that because you have religious freedoms which prevent you from being discriminated against by your employer.Under Pennsylvania law, Unless you have a written contract of employment with your employer, you are considered an employee-at-will. This means that there is likely little protection afforded you relating to unreasonable supervisors/bosses, as well as the typical workplace politics and drama which can be so troublesome. Likewise, in PA, employees are presumed to be "At Will." At-will employees may be terminated for any reason—at any time, even a mistaken reason, they can have their hours or pay decreased and they can suffer a cut in their benefits, so long as it's not illegal or unlawfully discriminatory. Generally, employees who work under an Employment Contract can only be terminated for reasons specified in the contract. In your state, an employment relationship is at-will unless there is a defined duration for the employment contract or if the contract permits termination by the employer only under specified circumstances.Your sole remedy is to appeal the people withing the company who have the ability to rehire you.On the other hand, because the comment you made was likely innocuous, and you did not mention the company or anyone by name, it is quite likely that it will be determined that you were not terminated for cause and that you will qualify for Unemployment Benefits. So if the company will not bring you back, be sure to file your claim for unemployment benefits.I understand that you may be disappointed by the Answer you received, as it was not particularly favorable to your situation, nor was it what I sensed you were hoping to hear. Had I been able to provide an Answer which might have given you a successful legal outcome, it would have been my pleasure to do so.Kindly rate my answer based on the knowledge I have provided to you and accept the fact that I was forced to give you this mostly bad news.I wish you the best in 2012.Thanks you,Doug
27 years legal experience and I keep current in Employment Law through regular continuing education.
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