Last week, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that “liking” something on Facebook is considered a form of speech which is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
This means that a precedent has been set where employers are not legally permitted to fire employees due to the pages and content that they may or may not “like” on Facebook. This ruling came as a result of a lawsuit against Sheriff B.J. Roberts, of Hampton Virginia, after he fired six employees for liking his opponent’s Facebook page during the 2009 Sheriff’s election.
U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler found that liking something on Facebook is the “Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard,” which is ruled as protected speech in the U.S.
So, to all of you U.S. employers out there, this newly ruled precedent is important to be aware of. Not only can you not demand access to your employees’ social media accounts in many states, but you also cannot penalize them for the things that they “like” on Facebook.
As laws around social media, online privacy and free speech get created, you can find details of how they affect your organization and employees right here on this blog. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe!
photo by: steakpinball
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.