Can I fire someone over a social media post?

James Potts - Legal Services Director

August 06 2019

Managing social media inside of work is usually straightforward—no personal use on company time. But can you control what your staff post on social media outside of work? That’s more complicated.

Test your knowledge

See if you can answer these three quick questions…

  1. One of your employees posts photos on Instagram of them drinking tequila and partying until 4am. Their shift started at 8am, and they don’t seem drunk or hungover… can you fire them?
  2. One of your male employees tweets a sexist joke. A female employee sees it and is offended. She reports it to you. You agree it’s offensive. Can you fire the male employee?
  3. An employee posts a photo on Facebook of their sad face. Underneath there’s a caption saying they hate their job and their boss, and they wish the business would burn down. Can you fire them?

Let’s see how you did…

If you decided to fire any of the above employees—wrong answer. Let me explain…

Social media is still relatively new territory in terms of employment law. And it’s unlikely that there’ll be clear-cut laws in this area any time soon. Why?

Because it’s difficult to prove the context intent and impact of a social media post, so creating one blanket rule for the appropriateness of content is impossible.

The employees above? If there’s no employment law in place, then they didn’t break any rules—even if you do think their behaviour is unprofessional.

So, what can you do?

Create a social media policy

Managing social media outside the workplace is largely down to you, the employer. Creating a social media policy sets out guidelines and best practices for your employees, and helps to protect your business against potential liability.

As with all your internal documentation, you should tailor your social media policy to your business needs. But it’s good practice to state that staff should not use social media to:

  • Reveal confidential information about the company
  • Upload photographs of themselves or any other employees at work or wearing a work uniform
  • Make defamatory comments about the company
  • Express personal opinions about the company
  • Say anything that people could view as bullying or harassment

You should also set out the consequences of any social media policy breach, and the likelihood of disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.

Make social media use as clear as possible in your workplace by creating a social media policy today. Need help writing it? Download our free sample social media policy here.

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