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Can Social Media Posts By Staff Lead To Wrongful Termination Claims?

Reality television star Kristin Cavallari terminated a staff member for posting an "insensitive" Instagram caption on September 11.

On the anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, the staff member posted a photo of Kristin Cavallari in a short black dress with a plunging neckline on her Instagram account. The caption read, "NYC for 24hrs. And what a time to be here…always remember."

Cavallari experienced a backlash from the post, with her Instagram followers criticizing it for being flippant about the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. In apparent response, Cavallari changed the caption to read, "NYC for 24hrs."

According to a source close to Cavallari, the photograph was taken the day before and was supposed to be posted on September 10 with a different caption. The source claims that the staff member "took it upon herself to post it Wednesday with her own caption." Aili Nahas and Natalie Stone "Kristin Cavallari Fired an Employee for Posting 'Insensitive' 9/11 Instagram: Source" (Sep. 11, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Family employers often have staff or contractors who manage their public image. If they post something off-brand, it can quickly damage their reputation.

However, all terminations carry risk.  Employees, without guidance, often make honest mistakes or believe they are doing what they were told to do, and this can lead to charges of wrongful termination.

Provide those who manage your social media accounts with clear, written guidelines. Make sure they know that if they have a question, they must come to you first before posting. In addition to the statement in the above example that some took issue with, the posting of Ms. Cavallari’s location and a date could pose a safety threat to her. That should be addressed in your guidelines.

Here are some considerations for guidelines for social media staff:

·      Only post approved content or content that clearly adheres to your guidelines on your personal or business social media account.

·      Adhere to your guidelines in replying to all comments on your account.

·      Do not post any information about you or your family the staff member’s personal social media account.

·      Never share your personally identifiable information on your social media account, such as your address or telephone number.

·      Do not take photos of your children and post them online.

·      Never “drop a pin” or “tag” your location on social media.

·      Avoid posting about upcoming vacations, especially specific details such as the dates of travel. Consider posting photos from vacations until after you return.

·      Opt out of Facebook and Twitter functions that automatically tag posts with a location. If a site asks, “Can I use your location?”, reply “No.” 

·      Do not share your contacts with a social media site.



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