Crossing the Line: At Work vs. Home

When can an employer tell you what you can or cannot do when you are not at work? Can you be fired for what you do on your off hours? Almost half the states in the U.S., including North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee are right to work states. This means that employers may terminate employees at will and employees may leave their jobs at will. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, when an existing state or federal law comes into play, but typically you could be terminated for what you do during your off hours.

Some common examples we’ve seen in the news include:

  • Damaging posts on social media (like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) where an employee maligns their employer, a manager or another employee, a customer or, in several notable instances, a public school teacher makes negative comments about students, have all resulted in termination of the employee.
  • Investigation and/or termination of a law enforcement officer or public official accused of illegal or unethical actions (drunk driving, taking indecent liberties with a minor, accepting bribes, etc.).
  • When a company employee and a customer interact at an after-hours event and the employee behaves inappropriately toward the customer, that customer will likely have an expectation that the employee is representing the company, even though it is not a company-sponsored event.
  • Public figures with endorsement deals may also be held to a higher standard because those deals, frequently worth millions of dollars, can result in huge business losses when the public figure does something that is not in line with company values.

Consider this: technology, in many respects, has taken away our expectation of privacy. It has made it easy for your actions to be widely broadcast and even recorded on a cell phone video and posted online. And while it may not seem fair that you can be rebuked or terminated for something you do outside of work, it is likely you can be (with a few exceptions).

If you believe you have been unfairly terminated, you may wish to speak to an employment law attorney at Merritt Webb. Contact us today to learn more.

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