Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that you have just been fired because you tweeted something that your employer discovered and found offensive. It doesn’t matter what the tweet contained, who it was intended for, or even if it was actually you who sent it (as opposed to a friend or relative who got ahold of your phone). Is there anything you can do about it?
The short answer is: probably not. If you are an “at will” employee, your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason, with very few exceptions.
You may think, “That’s BS, I have rights! I’m going to fight them! I’ll hire an attorney and sue them for wrongful termination!” Well … you can try. Good luck with that. Unless the circumstances surrounding your termination involved some sort of discrimination, which you have extensively documented, the chances of getting your job back are about zero percent.
What About The First Amendment?
Claiming first amendment rights is one of the most common responses when employees get fired over something they posted online.
However, like the rest of the federal Constitution, the First Amendment prevents the United States government from telling citizens what they can and cannot say. The Constitution, however, does not apply in the same way to private employers.
If an employer finds something you’ve put online offensive, or potentially damaging to the company, that can constitute grounds for being fired.
What About State/Federal Labor Laws?
This is an even less helpful avenue to pursue than claiming protection via the First Amendment. Generally speaking, state and federal labor laws govern things like overtime laws, workplace safety, workers compensation, sick leave, etc.
State and federal labor laws do not protect employees from being fired because they posted something offensive on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever.
What Are Your Options?
From a legal perspective, you don’t really have any options. Again, unless you have documented evidence that your employer was discriminating against you, or that firing you over a tweet was a pretext for something else, there’s nothing a lawyer can do for you.
As harsh as it may sound, the only real option you have is to accept what’s happened and move on. You’re not the first person to be fired for posting something stupid and/or offensive online, and you certainly won’t be the last.
If you want to keep your next job, it’s probably a good idea to take a hard look at your social media habits and decide if posting everything that comes to mind is really worth the risk of long term employment.