Can You Fire Someone for Hate Speech on Social Media?
Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Meredith Marks is holding costar Jennie Nguyen accountable for racially insensitive social media posts. Whether you’re a fan of the show or have seen a headline or two regarding the incident, it has posed some questions for the workplace. Why isn’t social media off limits?
Employees and employers represent the best of their company. So, when someone stumbles across racist content on social media, the company is entitled to fire the individual for offensive posts, comments, direct messages, and public statements. A few examples that might warrant someone to move forward with termination include:
Hate speech of a protected class (race, sex, age, religion, etc.)
Hostile comments that affect the work environment
Threats made that affect employee health and safety
Speech that might be damaging to company clients and customers
The set of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is just as much a workplace than it is a set. Nguyen’s very public racially insensitive social posts haven’t gone unnoticed. Though she deleted some of the Facebook posts, many have called out her criticism of the Black Lives Matter Movement and death of George Floyd in 2020.
Marks condemned her comments in a series of Tweets. According to People she said, “Since it was not perfectly clear in my previous tweet and I can now speak out in more depth, I am sickened by my co-worker’s racist and prejudicial posts that recently surfaced.” She wrote, “I do not stand behind or support these posts in any way, shape, or form.”
There is often a common misconception about one’s right to free speech. An employment attorney or termination lawyer would tell you that contrary to belief, First Amendment protection will not always safeguard social posts. There are certainly consequences, especially in California for what’s done on and off the clock.