You’re Fired! 71.6% Unaware that the First Amendment Does Not Apply to Social Media RecklessnessIn terms of social media and employment, the First Amendment does not apply. You can get fired because of social media. You can get fired for what you write, post and share on social media. In 2015, 18% of employers said they had fired an employee for something they posted on social media! Most people don’t know that. In our June 2016 Social Media Conduct Survey, we asked, “Do you believe that getting fired because of a social media post is an infringement of First Amendment rights?” 41.2% of Americans said “Yes,”—they believe that getting fired because of a social media post is an infringement of First Amendment rights. 30.4% say they’re “Not Sure.” That’s 71.6% who do not fully understand the risks of posting their unfiltered thoughts on social media.
QUESTION: Do you believe that getting fired because of a social media post
is an infringement of First Amendment rights?
If you get fired because of social media by a private sector employer, citing your First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech is futile. As this Rolling Stone article attests, stories of people who got fired because of social media posts abound. It happens to high profile people. It happens to ordinary people.You cannot depend on the right to free speech when it comes to social media and employment. Granted, employers should have a social media policy for employees, but many don’t. An employer does have the right to fire you because of social media even if the company has not provided a written social media policy for employees. One notable exception: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that employees cannot be fired for discussing “work-related issues” on social media. From the NLRB website:
Using social media can be a form of “protected concerted” activity. You have the right to address work-related issues and share information about pay, benefits, and working conditions with coworkers on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media. But just individually griping about some aspect of work is not “concerted activity”: what you say must have some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce, or prepare for group action, or bring a group complaint to the attention of management.Companies that do have a social media policy for employees must be sure that the policy complies with NLRB rulings. Anthonia Akitunde, founder of Mater Mea, recommends that every company have a social media policy for employees and it should include the five elements that she’s outlined in this article.
Social Media and the Clueless Job ApplicantPerhaps it’s less surprising to learn that the First Amendment offers no protections to people who haven’t yet been hired. Employers can and do research job applicants on social media. Job seekers should always think in terms of social media and employment aspirations because the two are so closely connected. A survey by careerbuilder.com revealed that 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks said they’ve found information that caused them not to hire a candidate—more proof that social media and employment are intertwined.
Social Media Is Your ResumeAccording to the survey by careerbuilder.com, 41% of employers say they are less likely to interview job candidates if they are unable to find information about that person online. Job seekers should think of social media as an integral piece of their resumes and each should use social media to establish and showcase his or her personal brand. Employers aren’t necessarily scanning your social media profiles to look for problems, they’re looking for insight into how you’re living your day to day life. Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift, describes it like this:
“What candidates do in their spare time and broadcast to the world through social media speaks volumes about their personal values and culture. The hiring manager knows that, in hiring that person, they’ll likely bring those values and culture into the office. So it must align with, or contribute positively to, the organization’s current culture.”There are some positive aspects to the trend of connecting social media to employment. According to Jobvite, one in three employers who research candidates on social media have found content that made them more likely to hire a candidate. And, 23% found content that directly led to hiring the candidate. The trick is, then, to not avoid social media, but to be on social media and be thoughtful about what you post.
What Makes You an Employment Risk?According to Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites, and 90% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media. Certainly most of the people using social media are either looking for a job or want to progress in their careers. The Careerbuilder.com and Jobvite surveys prove that the manner in which a person represents him or herself on social media does matter a great deal to the people who make hiring and firing decisions. As a digital marketing firm that frequently recruits and hires marketing professionals, and understands the importance of personal branding, we wanted to find out if people are mindful of the damage that social media can do to a personal brand. We wanted to see how many are aware of the social media and employment connection and if people understand that they can get fired because of social media. We considered the types of social media posts that are a turn-off to employers and we surveyed people to find out if anyone is still engaging in those risky social media behaviors. The full results of the survey are in the Semify’s 2016 Social Media Conduct Ebook. Below are some of the highlights of the survey and stories to illustrate social media’s impact on employers, employees and job seekers.
Don’t Be Yourself. Be Someone a Little Nicer -Mignon McLaughlinThe careerbuilder.com survey found that 46% of employers eliminate candidates who post provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. In our survey, we asked: "Do you ever post information or photos that could be offensive to others?" 23.1% of respondents said “Yes.”
QUESTION: Do you ever post information or photos that could be offensive to others?
You’re Fired. The End.Stories like the one about Wendy Bell always bring out the people who love to rant about free speech but don’t understand the nuances of the First Amendment. With very few exceptions, you can be fired because of social media—employers can fire you for what they deem to be an inflammatory or inappropriate post and you have no recourse. Nonetheless, to our question “Do you believe that getting fired because of a social media post is an infringement of First Amendment rights?” 41.2% said “Yes” and 30.4% said “Not Sure.” Wendy Bell’s supporters created a Facebook page called “Save Wendy Bell” where some expressed their misconceptions about the First Amendment, believing that an American cannot be fired because of social media; others argued that this was not an issue of Free Speech. Some who weighed in on the “Save Wendy Bell” Facebook page do understand the social media and employment connection as it relates to the First Amendment, and others don't.
Go Ahead, Be a Jerk on Social Media. Just Don’t Expect to Get Hired.Certainly, every American has the right to post his or her opinions about anything and everything, so long as they adhere to the social media platform’s rules. However, a person who goes into angry rants, especially about divisive issues like politics and religion, is likely to leave a pretty bad impression on a potential employer.
QUESTION: How often do you post comments and/or share content about
divisive issues like politics and religion?
Harsh JudgementsA social media page that makes your life look like a non-stop party is probably going to judged harshly. A study conducted by North Carolina State University concluded that:
A lot of employers and companies don’t really understand online behavior and many Facebook users aren’t getting hired as a result...Companies often scan a job applicant’s Facebook profile to see whether there is evidence of drug or alcohol use, believing that such behavior means the applicant is not ‘conscientious,’ or responsible and self-disciplined. However, the researchers found no significant correlation between conscientiousness and an individual’s willingness to post content on Facebook about alcohol or drug use. Will Stoughton, Ph.D. and lead author of the paper added, “This means companies are eliminating some conscientious job applicants based on erroneous assumptions regarding what social media behavior tells us about the applicants.”The careerbuilder.com survey indicates that 43% of employers are turned off by information about candidates drinking or using drugs. According to our survey, only 5.3% make the mistake of overdoing it with the party photos, and are likely to be judged as irresponsible and undisciplined. 14.2% occasionally show themselves using alcohol, 17.4% rarely do and 26.9% never make that mistake.
QUESTION: How often do you post pictures/videos of yourself using alcohol?
JSYKFor those who are not up to speed on internet slang:
QUESTION: How often do you use poor grammar, misspellings,
slang and/or text language in your posts?
It may not be a bad idea to keep up with trending internet slang words because today’s teenagers will soon be in charge. Gavin Hammar, CEO of Sendible.com, believes that "As this language becomes more allowed in educational settings, it will leave a lasting impact on the future generations. The young adults that are in high school right now are being directly affected by social media slang. These are the same people that will become the next business professionals, politicians and leaders of our world."But for now, it’s best to keep the internet slang to a minimum. And let’s hope that proper grammar never goes out of style. Semify SEO Superhero Lady Jen, The Grammarian, will keep fighting the good fight.
Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds YouSeems that most people get that. Most don’t complain about their job, employer or colleagues on social media. The careerbuilder.com survey found that 31% of employers eliminate candidates who bad-mouthed a previous company or fellow employee in their social media posts. Our survey found that only 8.1% of people said they’ve posted criticisms of their employers or colleagues on social media and 15.7%, have complained about their jobs.
QUESTION: Have you ever criticized your employer or colleagues on social media?
QUESTION: Have you ever complained about your job on social media?
You have a job and want to keep it? Don’t want to get fired because of social media? Then don’t ever post anything negative about your job, your colleagues or your employer on social media. And if your employer has a social media policy for employees, read it!Follow the same advice if you don’t want your resume to end up in the trash—real or virtual. The career.com survey found that 31% of employers say they eliminate candidates who bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employee.
Facebook Privacy PitfallsIn an article called “Watch Your Mouth on Social Media,” Scott Kleinberg, nationally syndicated columnist and the former social media editor at the Chicago Tribune, wrote:
“I read a story not too long ago where someone tired of being the subject of abusive Facebook comments reached out and complained to that person’s boss. The company subsequently fired the person.” How did that happen? Kleinberg explains: “Your place of employment shows up next to your name on a Facebook comment when a website uses the Facebook commenting plug-in. So if you’ve ever seen a story online and noticed the comments look like Facebook, that’s why. But even outside of the plug-in, hovering over your name or anyone else’s name on Facebook proper can reveal the same information.”
34.6% Are Wrong About Social Media PrivacyIn our survey, we asked “If you plan to continue to post things that might be a turnoff to potential employers, WHY?” 34.6% said because “My social media accounts are private.” You can never be sure that your social media privacy settings are 100% secure. Never. There may be an illusion of privacy, but nothing on the internet is ever really 100% private. You can delete incriminating photos and potentially offensive posts, but once those things are out there, they’re out there. Here’s a startling and very eye-opening statistic from our survey:
QUESTION: Have you ever taken a screenshot
of someone's social media post to use it against him or her?
But, is it Legal?In regards to the legality of employers looking at a candidates's social media account, Rosemary Haefner, of careerbuilder.com explains that, “In general, state social media laws do not limit an employer’s ability to review public information. Instead, these laws limit an employer’s attempts to gain access to the individual’s social media accounts by means such as requesting login credentials, privacy setting changes or permission to view the accounts.” According to Lisa Guerin who has practiced employment law in government, public interest, and private practice, there are some legal risks to employers that check applicants out online. In an article on nolo.com, she writes, “You should be aware that employers may still be able to request your password, unless your state has prohibited this practice.”
Just Be NiceRobert Fulghum makes many good points in his bestselling book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here’s one to remember when you’re posting on social media: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts.” And get you fired. And exclude you from being considered for a job. Always think before you post, be mindful of your personal brand and don’t get fired because of social media. In conclusion, just be nice :)