The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees every American the right of free expression, among other things. Everyone enjoys the right to speak his or her mind. However, none of us enjoys the right to do so without consequence.
In the last several days, three local officials have been removed from their professional positions because of comments they made on social media. All have been suspended; one, an untenured educator, was denied contract renewal last week.
For many onlookers, the reaction may seem heavy-handed. But these men aren’t the first to face professional repercussions for personal actions, remarks or even social media postings. They won’t be the last.
Few people have the luxury to answer to no one. In the professional world, an employer’s position may be that a worker represents the employer in the community even when he or she is not on the clock. It’s simply human nature to ask a butcher at the ballpark if he has any nice pork chops you can pick up the next day. Or a bookstore worker might be asked if the new John Grisham release has arrived. People are associated with their work, and conversely, one’s employer is associated with a worker.
No one relishes the idea of someone’s livelihood suffering from something they’ve said publicly. However, the take-away should be that people should conduct themselves online as if the world is watching — and judging.