Monday, July 13, 2020

Free Speech Can Have Consequences

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Free Speech Can Have Consequences

The Internet never forgives, nor forgets, and most people are aware that posting something violent or sexually offensive, or if they are the perpetrators of cyberbullying, can easily get them in trouble with their family, their friends, and even their employer. But what about posting a seemingly harmless political comment? Same thing.

In an article titled, “Fired for Facebooking: Nasty Political Posts Could Cost Employees Their Jobs,” on the website of the Society for Human Resource Management, it correctly claims that what we post on social media can shape both our personal and professional images. It’s important for HR professionals as well as employees to know the law. There are many laws that protect individuals from being fired over what they say on their own time, but, as the article points out, “nothing protects hate-speech online.”

Since states have varying laws on protecting employees, I urge all employers to know these laws thoroughly before making any decisions on whether or not to discipline an employee for what he or she says online. At the same time, I urge all employees to sit back and consider whether they truly want to post that comment, whether satirical or not, and have it forever branded to their name. You may think that the world wants to hear your opinion on the latest political issue, but in reality it has the potential to cause you more trouble than it’s worth.

For example, you decide to throw caution to the wind and post on every social media platform you can about your opinions on such sensitive topics as the upcoming presidential election, gun control, religious tolerance, kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. You think you’ve done a great job educating the populace at large about how you’re right and, if they don’t agree with you, then they’re wrong. What you don’t realize is that you’ve forgotten that your co-workers, your boss, and your boss’s boss (and maybe even all their spouses) are part of your circle of social media friends. They have all now formed a permanent opinion of you based on your posts. If you’ve said something that they don’t agree with, while they may not fire you, they may (whether consciously or not) halt your progress up the corporate ladder. Is your post really worth it?

Similar to when writing an angry letter, it’s better to take a step back, think about what you want to say, then sleep on it. If you still want to say it in the morning, then think some more.

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