Social media is no longer a platform used solely by the world’s youth. Today, it’s a multi-billion dollar machine that’s embedded into our lives on a global level. It’s a way for individuals to keep in touch and share information. It allow companies to advertise their products and events. It’s the mecca for animal videos, trending news topics, and celebrity gossip.

As an employer, it’s important to be aware of the appropriate uses of social media. While you may be quick to take action against an employee, you must be educated on the current laws and regulations that protect both your employee and your workplace.

Check out the following examples below. In each case, the employee was fired for his or her use when utilizing social media in relation to their job. Read on to see whether the grounds for firing were warranted in each case.

1. Five employees create and post a video on YouTube complaining about unsafe conditions. Despite the use of masks and disguises, the employer can still identify the individuals and chooses to fire them all immediately.

Grounds for firing?

2. Five employees chat on Facebook messenger during the evening hours to prepare an action plan directed towards their mutual superviser. The supervisor finds out from a third party employee and suspends the employees on grounds of violating social media usage rights listed in the employee handbook.

Grounds for firing?

3. An employee shares a Twitter update that condones the merits of her manager. Her remarks come directly after receiving a harsh employee review. Her update receives dozens of ‘likes’ from other employees within the company. The employee is fired immediately for violating pre-determined social media policies.

Grounds for firing?

4. A work-related incident spurs a team member to post negative comments about the company on his personal facebook page. Several other teammates respond to the post with equally negative remarks. The employee is promptly fired.

Grounds for firing?

In all incidents listed above, each case was found in favor of the employee.  

The National Labor Relations Board continues to create new amendments that protect an employee’s rights when it comes to sharing and writing content that is related to their workplace and its staff. In the examples list above, the NLRB cites that the employee was unlawfully fired for engaging in protected concerted activity. It’s important to understand what this protected behavior means for you and your policies.

While it may feel like it’s impossible to challenge an employee on the usage rights of social media, there are several steps you can take in preventing digital blow ups from employers. Not only will these blow-ups damage your reputation among other companies, it can inspire ill-will amid the rest of your work staff.

Take time to meet with disgruntled employees who may be tempted to air out their concerns on social media. Additionally, consider offering small rewards, like shortened summer hours or monthly coffee mornings, to revamp the culture of your physical workplace.

Finally, as an employer, don’t forget that you can use social media to your benefit. Take time to visit applicant’s social media profiles and do a quick audit for their sites. Do you see frequent complaints or angry spouting regarding their current occupations? This could be a warning sign that can help you make a responsible decision when hiring. All too often, those who participate in frequent dramatic or angry debates online, can also bring the same negative energy to the job.

While this should not be the only way to assess your candidates, you can use the information responsibly to better understand the character of an applicant and what role he or she will bring to your team.