It’s been a rough year for many businesses. Even if you’ve worked your hardest to help your employer stay afloat, you may not be getting that bonus or employee gift that you usually get this year. The math just might not work out. It’s understandable to be disappointed, but complaining about it in a public forum like social media could earn you more than a lump of coal in your stocking.
A stark example was set last year when a Canadian employee of a Minnesota company decided to complain about his gift through (what he thought was) his anonymous Twitter handle.
“What kind of multi billion dollar company gifts its [sic] Canadian employees barbecue sauce as a holiday gift? Yet the USA employees stuff their face with an actual holiday gift box,” he tweeted.
He was fired. Over a public complaint about BBQ sauce. It was a rash decision that even the CEO of the company admitted could have been handled better. But in many cases, the action is perfectly legal.
“The law is mostly on the side of the employer. Many companies have written policies that outline what they define as acceptable behavior both in and out of the office and most employees when they accept a job also accept the conditions that go along with it,” writes finance and technology expert Gene Marks.
It’s more obvious that actions like spreading hate speech online can result in a swift termination. But complaining? Where’s the line? Some states have protections in place that prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions based on what’s called “lawful off-duty conduct.” Texas isn’t among them. Texas is a employment-at-will state which means that unless a statute or an express agreement (such as an employment contract) states to the contrary, you can be terminated for any reason, or no particular reason at all, with or without advance notice.
These days, it’s likely your employer has a social media policy or part of its employee conduct section worked into your employment contract that addresses how you can or cannot behave online. Dig up your contract and take a good look at what’s considered acceptable. But also consider how your complaints could hurt not only your current employment, but future employment as well. Keep in mind that 90% of employers consider social media posts when evaluating candidates and 79% of HR professionals have denied a job to a candidate due to inappropriate content on social media. And to remain truly anonymous online is nearly impossible. The better solution, particularly this year, may be to practice grace, humility, and restraint.
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