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Can I Be Dismissed for Opinions Posted on Social Media?

It’s no secret that social media plays a major role in almost all of our lives. Even if you mainly use it for personal updates, what you say or post can significantly impact your career.

Recent reports show that 86% of Canadian companies would fire an employee for inappropriate social media posts.

Balancing personal expression with the professional standards of your workplace is essential. Using social media requires knowing when your comments or the things you like/share may cross a legal line or violate your employer’s code of conduct.

Let’s look at what Alberta’s labour laws say on this topic. We’ll also provide practical tips on how to maintain a professional online image.

Can employers dismiss you for opinions posted on social media?

Yes, Alberta employers can dismiss employees for opinions expressed on social media under certain circumstances. Although employees have freedom of expression, employers must manage and maintain a positive work environment. This extends to public comments an employee makes outside of the office.

As a general guideline, employees can be legally terminated (with cause) for publicly posting or sharing comments that are deemed inappropriate, offensive, or that risk damaging the reputation of the organization.

Read your employment contract carefully.

Guidelines on appropriate or inappropriate behaviour can be found in your employment contract and other company policies. They can vary from one organization to the next. Today, many employment agreements have a dedicated social media policy or contract that outlines acceptable behaviour.

It’s up to you as an employee to be aware of your workplace’s guidelines and exercise caution when sharing personal views on social media. This helps avoid potential conflicts with employer expectations.

What does the Alberta Labour Code say?

While the Alberta Employment Standards protects the rights of employees, they also define the rights of employers. Here are two key points to be aware of:

  • Employees can be dismissed without advance notice or pay-in-lieu if fired for Just Cause.
  • Just Cause “typically involves conduct that is serious enough – either on its own account or in combination with other factors – to justify the employer ending the employment relationship.”

Examples of Just Cause offenses related to social media could include:

  • Posts that attack or undermine the company and its policies or reveal sensitive company information.
  • Threats or harmful criticisms of management or coworkers.
  • Threats of violence against any individual or group.
  • Posts considered to be discriminatory or offensive (see below).
  • Rude language or inappropriate images (for example, employees have been terminated for hosting racy/X-rated accounts on Only Fans).

There are laws against ‘hate speech’

Hate speech occurs when individuals make offensive comments about others based on their race, religion, gender, or a disability. The intention behind such speech is to cause harm or incite violence. Examples range from discriminatory slurs to inflammatory remarks that reinforce stereotypes.

Employers can fire people who use hate speech because it makes the company look bad and can make the workplace unfriendly.

Personal social media posts can be viewed as a reflection of one’s character and may lead to disciplinary actions. This can include dismissal if they violate workplace policies or contribute to a toxic atmosphere.

Best practices for social media usage

We all have the freedom to share our opinions online, but here are some tips to help you play it safe.

1. Be mindful of company policies

Take time to familiarize yourself with your workplace’s policies, including any updates or revisions. These policies serve as a guidebook, outlining the boundaries and expectations regarding online behavior.

Company policies cover social media usage at work, representing the company online, and maintaining a respectful digital presence.

2. Think before you post

Before posting, consider the potential impact your content has on your professional image. The content you post can leave a lasting impression on your professional image.

If your next social post is something you wouldn’t want your current boss – or a future employer – to see, it may not be wise to post it.

If your next social post is something you wouldn’t want your current boss – or a future employer – to see, it may not be wise to post it.

3. Separate personal and professional accounts

Consider creating separate personal and professional social media accounts (eg. Facebook, Instagram or TikTok vs. LinkedIn). This separation helps maintain a clear boundary between your personal and work life. Keep in mind, you still need to be extremely careful of what you post on your personal channels.

Remember… social media is public

Your social media posts can reach diverse audiences, including your coworkers, bosses and customers. Be sure to know and follow your employer’s conduct and social media policies. As a final piece of advice, think about how different people might interpret your post and if it matches your professional identity and goals.

Social media offers many great opportunities for professional growth, networking, and personal expression. By using social media responsibly, you can enjoy its benefits without compromising your professional standing.

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