A&A: Are Facebook comments protected speech?

Q: I was fired for making comments about my employer on Facebook. My page does not note where I work or who I work with. It is viewable only to friends and my Twitter page is accessible only to  those who “follow” me.

My comments were vague regarding my wanting to be ethical and honest and that I was being pushed around because my budget was being cut. I had 16 people on my page who were “friends” that I worked with. One of those 16 people thought my comments “could have” had a negative effect on where I worked. At least four of those “friends”commented on my status and/or participated in discussion of my complaints.

The information was brought to the attention of my employer and I was immediately terminated. I am wondering if they had justifiable reason to terminate my position or if this was a violation of my rights? I feel like it was retaliatory due to the fact that the people pushing HR and the director were the ones the comments were about.

Speaking very generally, the right to free expression does not always mean a guarantee against employers, schools, and other third parties taking negative actions based on that expression — especially where the employer or school is a private rather than public entity.

Employment law can be complex, however, and a specific analysis of your situation goes beyond the range of issues that we are able to address through this service. If you are interested in seeking legal counsel experienced with employment law, you might try the local county Bar Association for a referral.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel to the First Amendment Coalition and responds to First Amendment Coalition hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues, but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.

One Comment

  • My husband was just recently issued a Good Behavior warrant for expressing his opinions and posting the criminal record (which was open information) in the paper and Facebook concerning an candidate that was running locally in our town. The judge ruled in the candidates favor. Here is the link to the article. Does the judge have the right to take away my husbands freedom of speech?

    The hottest thing going in Brunswick and up in Atlanta is this story. In wake of the fact The Former Chief Judge Amamda Williams was forced to retire because her court room was discovered to a place of favortism for high powered friends, one of her appointments has done the same thing in the unconstittutional ruling on Friday.


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