Can an employer discipline an employee for a Facebook "Like"
A recent case in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that yes, a “like” counts as protected free speech, and in Connecticut, workers cannot be disciplined for exercising their free speech rights. Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-51q, reproduced below, explicitly prohibits an employer from disciplining or firing an employee for exercising his or her First Amendment rights (so long as such exercise does not materially harm the employer). For example, you may not fire or discipline an employee for writing a letter to the editor criticizing a political position you favor. In the specific case above, since the court determined that a Facebook “like” is, for constitutional purposes, indistinguishable from the letter to the editor, C.G.S. Section 31-51q would protect the employee. C.G.S. Section 31-51q. Liability of employer for discipline or discharge of employee on account of employee’s exercise of certain constitutional rights. Any employer, including the state and any instrumentality or political subdivision thereof, who subjects any employee to discipline or discharge on account of the exercise by such employee of rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 3, 4 or 14 of article first of the Constitution of the state, provided such activity does not substantially or materially interfere with the employee’s bona fide job performance or the working relationship between the employee and the employer, shall be liable to such employee for damages caused by such discipline or discharge, including punitive damages and for reasonable attorney’s fees as part of the costs of any such action for damages. If the court determines that such action for damages was brought without substantial justification, the court may award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to the employer.