Political Posts Can Spell Trouble for Your Future
Doesn’t it seem like everyone has an opinion about this past election and what a Trump presidency means for the future of our country? Perhaps the reason it seems like everyone has an opinion is because you can’t log into social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. without seeing tons of posts pertaining to the U.S. political system and the recent election.
In the United States, we Americans hold our First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech near and dear and tout that right whenever someone recommends we not share our thoughts.
But, can posting about your political ideology hurt you?
The thing about the First Amendment that many Americans forget from their U.S. History or American Government classes is that while the First Amendment does offer U.S. citizens many protections regarding the freedom to speak, it does NOT protect ALL language: essentially, it says that within limits, the government cannot tell us what we can or cannot say. The First Amendment applies to government censorship of speech and restricts public employers from engaging in this practice. however, it doesn’t apply to private employers.
In at-will employment states (nearly every state is an at-will employment state), without a contract, private employers can terminate employment at any time and for any reason not prohibited by law. So, since private companies or organizations may not need “just cause” for firing someone, private employers can ostensibly terminate someone based on political beliefs.
So, does that mean you shouldn’t express your political opinions online?
The short answer is that at-will employees should be careful about what and when they post. If an employee represents their company (attends meetings with those outside the company, makes sales calls, wears clothing with the company logo in public, etc.), employers are much more likely to act if that employee gives customers the impression that their views represent the beliefs of the company (especially when the head of the company has opposing beliefs).
That doesn’t mean don’t post at all, it just means be thoughtful about what you post, when you post (don’t do it during work) and make sure that what you post doesn’t reflect on your company. Chances are, you won’t lose your job over a political social media post BUT know that it can happen.
What about political posts for students applying for admission to college or graduate school? Here, the advice is similar to that for private employees. Be thoughtful about what you post and whether or not your posts might be offensive to others. Know that your social media may be reviewed during the admissions process and recognize that while you have the right to post what you want, there could be consequences for the choices you make online.
Thanks to Elvert Barnes for making this photo available http://ow.ly/Ibuc307YPdk