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  • Facebook Comments: Protected Speech or Personal Branding Nightmare?

    We all know that people overshare. It’s easy to write a quick status update when someone bothers you at work or you’re frustrated. And in today’s world of social media and instant communication, it’s not surprising that quite a few people are taking heat for posting inappropriate content—especially when it comes to their careers.


    But as the saying goes, just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should.

    Employers struggle with employees’ rights outside of work – what are they allowed to say on social networks? What if it damages the organization’s reputation? Should personal updates and comments be protected speech or grounds for termination?

    In a recent article “Are We Really Surprised? NLRB Takes on Facebook Comments,” Gerald Lutkus wrote the following:

    The regulation of off-duty comments by employees has always been extremely difficult in a unionized setting. In a non-union setting, the concern was always whether an employer’s policies or its enforcement of them would end up interfering with protected concerted activity by employees.

    One would think that the litigation over this recent charge would be straightforward involving rules that shouldn’t change all that much from past rules about off-duty comments. Not so fast, my friend.

    Later in the article, he goes on to say:

    If you move to discipline or terminate an employee for off-duty social networking commentary, you must consider whether the commentary is truly protected concerted activity.

    With personal branding becoming ever-so-important in our careers, it seems obvious that one should refrain from posting anything that could get you in trouble or damage your (or your organization’s) reputation. But people still do it. And sometimes, it can turn into a personal branding nightmare.

    So, what do you think? Should social media comments be protected speech? Or should an employer have a right to fire someone based on what they’ve said online?


    Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. She is also the author of #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com and blogs about career advice at HeatherHuhman.com.

    Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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