According to the Pew Research Center, around 70% of all American adults use Facebook, and many more are active on other social media platforms.
Given its prevalence and ease of access, it’s not surprising that your employer can find you and much of the content you post. What you may find shocking is a scenario that’s becoming more common: Employers terminating employees, demoting them, or other punishment based upon social media activity.
However, the fact that it’s common doesn’t make it legal. An employment attorney in Newark, NJ can explain in more detail, but a summary of the basic legal concepts can help you understand your rights if you have faced any type of illegal activity in the workplace.
Overview of New Jersey Employment Laws
Unless you’ve signed an agreement to the contrary, the law in New Jersey is that you’re an at-will employee.
Your employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason — or no reason at all. There’s a key exception where your employer is motivated to engage in an adverse action for discriminatory reasons.
Both federal and state statutes prohibit discrimination on account of sex, religion, race, and other traits.
Labor Laws and Social Media Activities
The same discrimination laws also make it unlawful for an employer to engage in adverse action on the basis of your participation in protected activities. An example might be exercising your First Amendment rights, filing a workers’ compensation claim, or alerting authorities about unlawful practices in the workplace.
Plus, there are labor statutes that govern the relationships among employers, employees, and management. They prohibit termination if you participate in certain “concerted” activities, such as interacting with other co-workers on such topics as:
- Increasing your pay;
- Workplace safety;
- Resolving workplace issues; and,
- Other efforts to improve working conditions.
As such, the question becomes whether posting comments, images, blogs, or other content on social media would constitute protected, concerted activity. Your employer may violate the law by firing you if:
- The subject matter of your social media posts is related to workplace conditions, problems, and related issues in the employment setting; and,
- The conversation is concerted, in the sense that you’re interacting with other employees, managers, and others in the workplace.
In other words, your social media activity may not be protected if your discussion falls outside your employer’s practices or policies – perhaps to disparage the company. Likewise, your posts may not be concerted unless you seek input from other workers or attempt to gain support from them on a work-related issue.
Contact an Employment Attorney in Newark, NJ About Social Media in the Workplace
If you’d like to know more about social media in the context of employment and discrimination laws, contact the Law Offices of Usmaan Sleemi. Our employment lawyers serve clients in Newark, Essex County, and throughout Northeastern New Jersey, and we have in-depth knowledge of the legal concepts that apply in your case.