Back in June, Phoenix police officers were being investigated for their conduct on social media. Now, the Phoenix Police Department is being sued by one of those officers who were under investigated. This brings up the issue of companies being allowed to fire you if you post something on social media, and if this therefore violates your First Amendment rights of freedom of speech.
The officer suing the department argues that he should not be punished for what he was saying on his own time, and that that was against the department’s policy. However, what he posted and reposted was anti-Muslim, a very serious matter. Although some members of the department have argued that the officer is a “stand-up guy” and that he should be allowed to share his opinion publicly, it doesn’t change the fact that the department should be allowed to discipline him.
As a company, and especially as a police department who is supposed to be protecting society, you should have the right to fire anyone who does not follow your policies, or who shows your company in a bad light. If there is someone who is posting abusive and racist content, that is going to reflect on your company and the public’s perspective. I believe it is more than reasonable that the police department would not condone this behavior, and although he technically has the right to post that under the First Amendment, it doesn’t mean he won’t have repercussions for it.
It’s important to remember that the government punishing you for what you say, and your employer punishing for what you say are two very different situations. If the government tries to interfere with what you’re posting on social media, then yes, that is violating your rights. But your employer is not the government, and they have every right to fire you if what you are saying is not aligning with your company’s beliefs and standards. Being fired and being arrested are two different things, and the First Amendment will only help you with so much.
Today, more and more people are being fired, or not even being hired, because of what they are posting on different social media networks. This is why people are stressing more and more that you should “be careful about what you post”. Although you may think this is violating your rights, there is nothing that protects you from the decisions of private employers. And really, those who are worried about it infringing on their rights, or say it is an invasion of privacy, are probably the ones with the most they want to hide.
Of course, there still are cases where employers abuse this right to fire people for what they do outside of work. The decision to fire someone should always be based on a legitimate reason, but that isn’t allows the case. It is unfortunate that some employers abuse their power to fire people for something as simple as a bumper sticker they don’t like, but I just hope you don’t find yourself in any kind of situation like that. So my advice is just be a decent human being and be careful about what you are posting on social media, because trust me, that will come back and haunt you.