Can You Be Fired for Calling Your Boss a Profane Name on Social Media?
While we have the right to freedom of speech, most people recognize it has its limits. However, those limits might be further out there than many realize. Whether a worker can insult their boss and their boss’s family on social media has come into the limelight recently and has given both a yes and a no answer to the question.
In a recent decision by the Second Circuit, which covers Connecticut, a ruling answered if an employer can fire an employee during a union organizing drive if they use profanity, specifically when the profanity is aimed at the boss and their family. In the case, a particularly disgruntled employee communicated how upset he was at the treatment of employees at a catering company during a union organizing drive. On his work break, he posted the following on social media:
“Bob [supervisor] is such a NASTY MOTHER F****R don’t know how to talk to people!!!! F*** his mother and his entire f***ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!”
Management learned about the offensive post and, after investigation, fired the employee. The employee only had around 10 coworkers added but the post was public. However, an administrative law judge found the termination was in violation of the law as the comments were made under protected activities. The National Labor Relations Board upheld the decision and it was then taken to the Second Circuit.
The Second Circuit found they were in violation of the law under specific reasoning. The Court found that the company did not give discipline to workers that used profanity in the workplace, that the language was not used at any event or in front of customers, that the content was meant to urge readers to vote for the union and was protected, and that the termination came right before the election.
Even though the Court upheld the decision, it emphasized that these protections were on the outer limits of union-related comments and felt the Labor Board needed to be sensitive to employer’s legitimate concerns over these types of issues. It was also emphasized that there needs to be a balance between the interests of employers, employees, and the unions. Had the message not been in support of the union, had the employee been discharged at another time, or if the company did not allow profanity at work, the outcome may have been vastly different.
If you feel your rights as a worker are being violated, contact the Connecticut employment lawyers at Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers today. We will put our years of employment experience in Connecticut to work for you.