Can my personal tweets get me fired?

Sure. In fact, even galactic heroes get fired for ill-advised tweets.

That was the case earlier this year with Gina Carano, the actress who portrayed Cara Dune in “The Mandalorian.” Her employer, Lucasfilm, let the actress go after a series of tweets that were “denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities,” the company said in a statement. (For more see: #FireGinaCarano).

Not only can toxic tweets get you fired from a job, they can prevent you from getting a new career position, too.

“I once saw an applicant’s Twitter profile, and it contained a lot of tweets about his former employer,” said Tony Grenier, chief executive officer at Instrumental Global, an online music-lesson site. “He was very vocal about the things he believed are mismanagement up to the point that he was cursing his supervisor because his supervisor doesn’t know how to respond to criticism.”

Grenier didn’t know the entire story, but he saw enough that it raised a major red flag.

“I figured tweets like this tell a lot about the applicant,” he said. “If he did that to his former employers, he might do that to us, too. While no one company is perfect, you don’t bite the hands that feed you. So I chose not to hire him.”

Labor laws generally back Twitter-based pink slips

By and large, U.S. labor laws support the firing of an employee over a fiery Twitter post.

“While you may have your own blog, a Facebook or a Twitter account, or a membership on another social network, you are ultimately responsible for what you post and who sees it,” noted in a blog post. “No matter which microblogging or social networking site you participate in, you must be extra careful about what you write and choose to share with the public at large. You may be fired for entries that your employer may read and does not like or agree [with].”

For managers, firing a staffer over a tweet may also depend on where the company is located and under specific conditions.

“In most states, the short answer is yes, an employer can fire you or not hire you for any reason as long as it’s not based on a discriminatory purpose,” said Glen Levine, senior founding partner at Anidjar & Levine, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. “Your online profile can be considered by your employer for consideration of your job. Privacy settings within the particular social media site have no impact on this, as there is generally no real expectation of privacy on social media. Consequently, a tweet or social media post made on company time could affect your continued employment.”

It’s not a freedom of speech issue

The right to freedom of speech as specified in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution won’t save an employee from a pink slip after a deal-breaking social media post, especially if the offending staffer works in the private sector.

“The First Amendment only protects you from government actions being taken in response to whatever you may have said,” Levine said. “If you work for the government, then you have slightly more protection depending on the subject of the tweet. With all of these things being taken into consideration, you may want to be more careful before clicking that tweet button.”

Constitutional scholars agree, adding that many Americans are under the mistaken impression that harmful and denigrating social media posts are not actionable due to freedom of speech protections.

“Each semester, I lecture to my students about needing to engage in personal branding when it comes to their online activity,” said Andrew Selepak, a social media professor at the University of Florida. “Part of the discussion includes talking about how anything and everything they post to social media will be judged by employers, future employers, grad schools, and even future romantic partners.”

The problem, Selepak said, is a gross misunderstanding of freedom of speech in the U.S..

“Freedom of speech protects citizens from being prosecuted by the government, so long as it still does not violate the law such as speech that incites violence or libels another,” he said. “Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences of what we say.”

Fireable Twitter offenses, listed

The list of tweets that can lead to an employee being fired isn’t long — at least not yet — but it is worth learning for both employers and employees.

Vulgarity and obscenities 

Dealing in profanity and discussing obscene acts can be enough to lose you a job. For example, calling a manager or another employee an “a–hole” on social media can well lead to a pink slip.

Extreme political views

Staffers who comment on sensitive political issues, like the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel, or pass along misinformation about a state or federal election, for example, may also be putting their position at a company on thin ice.

Complaints about your employer

Companies are all about protecting their brand and reputation, so any tweet that casts an employer in a bad light can trigger a trip to the human resources department and, ultimately, the unemployment line.

Companies view employees who post toxic comments about the firm as lacking good judgment and not being team players. They may also note that an employee who shares criticism of the firm online is poisoning the well and potentially infecting other employees. Since most employees are hired at will, those reasons are more than enough to give the offending staffer the boot. The same goes for employees who share company secrets or disparage a company client, vendor, or partner.

“Badmouthing the company as a current employee is definitely grounds for termination, but there also needs to be a determination if the complaint can be addressed or the employee is being unreasonable,” said Jose Sanchez, a business development specialist at ShipBots, a e-commerce software company in Anaheim, California. “Personal opinions also need to be kept to personal accounts and not business accounts. There is just no reason to risk professionalism for a single tweet.”

Sexist, racist, or other bigoted posts

By and large, anything racist, sexist, homophobic, discriminatory, or violent is ground for firing.

“An employer can also decide not to hire someone for posting unprofessional social media posts, for posting negative comments about a previous employer, for posting nudity, for posting content that depicts the use of drugs or alcohol, or for posting literally anything that the employer finds disagreeable,” Selepak said.

Posting extremist views

Companies are generally OK if a staffer posts a lighthearted post about a television show, a political figure, celebrity, or professional sports franchise, among other targets. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

“If you post something about hating to go to work on Mondays, I’d probably even retweet that,” said Austin Fain, owner at Perfect Steel Solutions, a Fort Wayne, Indiana-based roofing firm. “The kinds of tweets that are off-putting are extremist views toward a certain group or individuals. Tweets that threaten, create hate, or outright disregard someone’s rights are something that we take very seriously even if they were said as a joke.”

Fain said the reason he doesn’t mind work-related tweets is because everyone has off days at work and that’s inevitable.

“But if you’re tweeting racist comments or forcing your political beliefs down someone’s throat without entertaining the possibility of a healthy argument, then those kinds of tweets replicate values that we as a company don’t believe in [or] endorse,” he said.

The bottom line

The 280-character limit on Twitter posts may seem short, but it’s long enough to post something toxic and put a staffer’s job on the line. Sooner or later, such a post may wind up on a manager’s desk.

“While we don’t have an official policy, our employees and we share a general understanding of what is right and wrong,” Fain said. “Additionally, we don’t monitor the social media activity of our employees while they’re working for us, but if something does get brought to our attention, we do take serious action such as suspension or even firing the employee.”