The First Amendment Will Not Protect You From Being Fired

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.

3 thoughts on “The First Amendment Will Not Protect You From Being Fired

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  1. This was a super relevant news topic especially in light of recent police news headlines, it makes sense that they’d want to avoid being caught in a poor light. Your third and fourth paragraphs sum up and epitomize the First Amendment limitations that people often misunderstand so well! I really liked how clearly you lay out the two major ideas of separating government power v. Private company power — because people (me included before taking this class) tend to think that they’re one in the same. I would completely agree that it’s important for us to know that we can exercise our right to post opinionated things, but we can’t guarantee ourselves a freedom of repercussion and negative consequence. Where there’s freedom of speech, there’s freedom of response too!

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  2. This was a really interesting read! I was fired earlier this year from a job for no reason (and I’m not being dramatic – they did not give me a reason when I asked for one multiple times), and I ended up learning a lot about new Hire-At-Will policies and the fact that private companies really can fire you for no reason and be protected for doing so. I think being safe on social media is important, but it really is wack that companies can do whatever they want when it comes to hiring and firing decisions. Good article overall, gave me a lot to think about!!!

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  3. The issue that is important to note here is that the police department is not a regular employer. The police department *is* the government. Thus there is, and should be a much higher burden for the Police Department to meet in terms of justifying the firing of this individual for exercising his free speech rights.

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