Should employers be able to hold workers accountable for social media posts?

ethics legal attorneySocial media has worked itself into nearly every facet of our lives; our relationships (personal and professional), political stances, entertainment choices, and product choices are distributed through social media for the world to see.

Relative to other dissemination of “news,” social media is a breed of its own. Still in its youth, ethical guidelines remain vague.

One of the main questions rising from this social media conundrum is the level of accountability a person has for what he or she posts. This point has been raised after a University of Kansas professor was placed on indefinite administrative leave for a tweet he wrote about the Navy Yard shootings.

According to the Washington Post report, associate professor David Guth tweeted “blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters.”

The question here is whether can and should Guth be removed from his position because of a single post on Twitter.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Obviously, there are limitations to this amendment and the right to free speech. For example, commercial speech, school speech, and obscenity can all be regulated or limited, as well as defamation.

So, does the University of Kansas have a legal right to place Guth on leave for his tweet? Does the establishment have the right to fire him?

Or, does the First Amendment protect social media? Does a tweet, a post, or even an Instagram constitute “speech”? Political speech such as flag burning, for example, is protected.

As social media further weaves itself into the fabric of our society (which it most certainly will), these questions will continue to be addressed.

As an attorney in Huntsville, Alabama, I want to know where you stand on this issue. Is social media “speech”? Should people be held accountable for their posts on Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Should you be able to lose your job because of what you tweet from your personal Twitter account?

Contact Martinson & Beason, P.C. to discuss the future of social media and the law, as well as the implications your own posts may have on your career.