Social Media Activity Isn’t Private

Posted May 5, 2017 by Mary McGinley

In today’s world of social media, sometimes it’s difficult to keep separate one’s professional persona in the workplace and the persona that one has in their personal life.

According to a recent article by Jon Hyman that appeared at, those lines can blur between what is considered private, and what is out there for employers and the rest of the world to see. Issues around social media posts have often caused confusion and been a source of frustration for both workers and employers and have even ended up in court.

This is precisely what happened in a legal case involving a fire chief and his employer, Howard County. Kevin Buker posted a number of status updates to his personal Facebook page that were considered objectionable and, in one instance, even racist in nature.

Given the nature and tone of Buker’s postings, the County chose to terminate his employment with the fire department. Buker sued for wrongful termination claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated because the County’s social media policy was vague. A lower court dismissed Buker’s claims.

In a Court of Appeals, the Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. The Court sided with Howard County because Buker’s Facebook activity “interfered with and impaired the Department’s operations and discipline as well as working relationships within the Department.” The Court further pointed out that Buker’s activity and speech on the social media site expressly disrespected his superiors and undermined the Department’s mission of public safety.

Workers are all too often unaware that their social media activity is never completely private and that the actions that they put on sites such as Facebook are being observed by their employer. In today’s online world, it doesn’t matter if a worker is on duty or on their own personal time, every negative behavior or comment that they make online can lead to having their employment terminated.  What’s more is that social media can also become a liability when looking for a job. What is clear, Hyman says, is that employees need to be trained on why social media activity matters – whether they are at work or away from their job and on their own time.

At EinsteinHR, we know that it’s important that after your company finds the right candidate to fill the job, and onboarding them as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We are here to help you do all of that and to answer all of your questions and give you guidance on matters such as health insurance, retirement, and other benefits you offer to your workers. We have the years of experience and the expertise in the field of human resources to give you the answers you need for your small to medium sized company.

Contact us today toll-free at 888-981-3622 (EMC2).