Should An Employer Dictate Your Social Media Usage?

Elle Scott

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I recently came across this social media post which started an engaged online discussion.

Jobs do NOT pay enough to try to regulate what I choose to do in my free time or what I wish to post on my social media account. Employers should realize I represent you only during the hours you pay me, any other time I represent myself bc this job is not my life.

I understand what this comment was trying to convey but it’s a slippery slope when you’ve seen how far the power of social media can reach into someone’s personal life. My overall opinion is that what you say on social media shouldn't be a direct reflection on whether you can perform the duties of employment.

However, I also feel that depending on where you work, you should be reprimanded for what you express on public forums, if it has a negative impact on your employer. I noticed a lot of people arguing that if the original tweet was true, social media wouldn’t have been able to get so many racists fired from their jobs.

Since when did being a racist stop you from doing a job you were hired to do?

Yes, I know this seems odd coming from a Black woman but my views on the world aren't so one-sided.

I worked with a guy for six years and I knew he was a closet racist; his racism would slide out from the shadows every so often at work. It was more indirect and he would always try to cover it up with, “I’m not trying to say…”

This guy was ridiculously good at his job.

He and I had to work closely together many times and while I personally didn’t enjoy his presence, we got the work done. Though our employer supposedly has a policy on what we should and shouldn’t post on social media, I don’t think my coworker would be punished for spewing hatred online. The only way I think he’d be reprimanded is if he mentioned our employer.

Yet, that’s not always the case.

Two years ago, a woman was hired to a position in our company. Her position required her to be in constant contact with the public. During her probation, it was discovered that she was a social media personality -- not too bad. But it was also discovered that she had a live video floating around on social media of her and her boyfriend. Calls from all over the city flooded our lines with citizens complaining that she should be fired.

The woman wasn’t fired until months later; which was surprising because being on probation means you can be fired at any time. She actually tried to fight the termination because at the time of the video incident she wasn’t an official member of our organization and shouldn’t be held to our standards.

I was in agreement with her firing, not because social media should be used as a weapon against employees, but she had made such a public figure of herself online that her remaining with our company could negatively impact our image. Keeping her on as an employee wasn’t worth the risk. I may have felt different if her face wasn’t in the video but it was.

Funnily enough, there are many comments and posts online about my employer, posted by current employees, and it goes unbothered.

However, the two examples I gave were extreme cases and are what I thought of when I read the original post.

Many of the responses were too focused on the fact that racists should be called out and fired from their jobs when found on social media. It was sort of like people were agreeing with parts of the original post, but wanted a caveat for racists.

I don’t support racism or hate towards any kind of people. I keep the same type of energy regardless of another’s belief.

The argument of, yeah, employers should mind their business except for with racist employees, is that someone could argue they are being discriminated against in the workplace.

This is America and we know there have been legal cases built on less.

If an employer fires someone for posting a racist meme, or making a racist comment about their coworkers, but doesn’t fire an employee that posted nudes on OnlyFans; this could be deemed as discriminatory.

I don’t understand why racists comments on social media were the only types of comments people were concerned about. People post inappropriate things on social media frequently and it’s not all about race.

But also, who deems what is inappropriate?

My level of inappropriate may not be your same level.

This isn’t a simple debate with a yes or no side. There are many things to consider before concluding what employers should and shouldn’t do regarding controlling employees' social media accounts.

Social media warriors have become too empowered.

I suggest if you want to live as your true self on social media, you shouldn’t advertise your job during your off time, don’t friend any of your colleagues, and don’t post under your legal name.

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