How Facebook Can Cost You Your Job (Or Even Your Freedom)


January 31, 2017 10:50 am, Published by
Rear view of business man hands busy using cell phone at office desk, young male student texting on phone sitting at wooden table
Be careful what you post on Facebook – it could get you suspended from your job. That’s what happened recently to a judge in South Carolina.

Judge Kenneth E. Johns, Jr., a probate court judge in Oconee County, posted a comment on Facebook about a well-publicized matter that was in probate court at the time. It was discovered that Johns had also posted political content, including an apparent endorsement for a particular political candidate, plus information about fundraising for a church.

Why does any of that matter? Because it violated multiple provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct. As a result, he was suspended (PDF) from the bench for six months by action of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, all because he was careless about what he posted on Facebook.

It’s Not Just Judges Who Get in Trouble

It’s unlikely that something you post on social media will end up being scrutinized by the Supreme Court. But you don’t have to be a judge to get in trouble.

Jurors have gotten in trouble for using social media during their trials. A woman in New York was held in contempt and fined $1,000 after Facebooking details of the case she was hearing. One Texas juror was charged with four counts of contempt of court and received 16 hours of community service for sending a Facebook friend request to the defendant in the case he was hearing. A Florida man also tried to friend the defendant in his case on Facebook, and was not only dismissed from the jury but also received three days in jail. These are just a few examples.

Outside of the law, anyone can be fired for their social media postings (and many, many have been) if it violates company policy, or sometimes just because the boss doesn’t like what they posted. There’s no clear protection under the law unless you’re posting about “concerted activities” like improving working conditions, and you’re involving other coworkers in the discussion, in which case it may be protected. 3d Facebook-like blue cartoon thumbs down.

Employers Need to Watch Out, Too

If you’re an employer, that’s not the end of the story, though – firing someone may not be as easy as you thought, as some ex-employees are fighting back. For instance, earlier this year a Pennsylvania judge ordered Chipotle to rehire a man they’d fired over a tweet, and to pay him lost wages, too.

For advice on firing, hiring, and other matters of business law, contact corporate attorney Gem McDowell at his Mount Pleasant office. He and his associate Lauren serve clients in the greater Charleston area and across South Carolina. To schedule your free initial consultation, call (843) 284-1021 or fill out this contact form online today.


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