Trump Flip-Off Flap Raises Questions About Workplace Social Media Policy - NBC Southern California
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Trump Flip-Off Flap Raises Questions About Workplace Social Media Policy

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Middle Finger Peril: How Social Media Posts Can Threaten Job

    A Virginia woman was fired after a picture of her giving President Trump's motorcade the middle finger was posted online. The NBC4 I-Team investigates the rights of citizens who post online. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017)

    A woman in Virginia was fired after a picture of her giving President Donald Trump's motorcade the middle finger was posted online.

    She told The Washington Post her private employer fired her for violating company policy.

    Aaron Caplan, a professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Loyola Law School, said your opinions and what you post online matter and if a private employer does not like them then they could let you go.

    "They don't have to have a reason," said Aaron Caplan, a professor at Loyola Law School. They can just say we don't want to have you around because you are bad for business."

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    In an employment at-will state like California, he says, your employer can fire you if they do not like having you around.

    There may be other criteria to consider like a collective-bargaining contract but when it comes to expressing yourself on social media, it is important to find out what your employer cares about. That could be looking at any policy your employer may have on the issue.

    Juli Briskman, who worked for Akima LLC, a government contracting firm, told The Washington Post that her former employer, fired her for violating the company's code of conduct policy.

    "Her employer is a private person," Caplan said. "They don't have to respect her freedom of speech."

    The picture remains the cover photo on her Facebook page at last check Wednesday afternoon.

    "If the government had tried to retaliate against this company because one of its employees had expressed a political opinion that would have been unconstitutional," Caplan said.

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    Caplan said laws on these issues haven't changed in decades, but the kind of speaking we do has, leading us to ask: Does social media restrict free speech?

    "What's more realistic is to say that as a practical matter, people in our society might not be able to use all of the freedom that the internet gives them because there might be these private consequences."

    In California, there is a statute that prohibits employers from preventing employees to participate in politics or quote "political activity."

    Caplan says it not clear whether a particular post qualifies as political activity.

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