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Can you terminate an employee over a social media post?

Let’s say you have an employee who is frustrated with the company over their current situation. The topic of the post doesn’t matter, whether it’s regarding wages, hours or complaints about a supervisor. This employee writes an angry social media post and names your company, stating their grievance.

Depending on the employee’s history, you may want to give a warning or enact other disciplinary action. But if this is not the only offense this employee has committed, the question for you becomes: Is bad publicity on social media a fire-able offense?

All employment in Colorado is at-will employment, which means you can technically fire an employee without notice at any time as long as there is no discrimination involved.

Many employers are hesitant to fire employees for this reason because of the Colorado Social Media and Workplace Law, otherwise known as the “Facebook Law,” but it doesn’t protect the employee from termination due to information (aka a social media post) that is available to the general public. It only protects employees from being terminated for failing to:

  • Provide passwords to private accounts
  • Add their employer/coworkers as administrators or friends
  • Comply with a request to change the privacy settings on a personal account

Some might also have concerns about the Colorado Lawful Off-Duty Conduct Law, which states that an employer cannot fire an employee for their lawful activities outside of work. But the conflict of interest exception to this law applies in this case. This states that an employer can fire an employee if the off-duty activity creates a direct conflict of interest with their place of employment as in this instance.

It is legal, in most cases, to terminate an employee based on negative press via social media. The exception to this rule is if the post contains a report of harassment, discrimination or misconduct in the workplace. This should be taken seriously and dealt with immediately.

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