How social media can hurt an employment case

Social media can hurt an employment case if people involved in a lawsuit make posts without thinking about the repercussions they could bring.

In Colorado, many employees have gone through issues such as discrimination, wrongful termination and sexual harassment. As is their right, quite a few seek compensation. What they do not realize, however-and what employers may not realize too-is that social media has the potential to derail a case.

To clarify, this article is not about cases that have social media as part of any allegations. For example, it is not about an employee using Facebook to harass another employee.

A post can misstate what happened

Say that Employee A is pursuing a discrimination case. He posts an overview of the allegations on social media but leaves something important out or writes a version that is different from what official statements have said. Even a small deviation can make a plaintiff look bad and come off as untrustworthy.

Similarly, suppose that Employee B was fired for the reason that she drank too much at work. Employee B contends she rarely drinks but is posting pictures on social media of her at parties with beer at the table in front of her. These pictures can undermine her case. Even if she has her privacy settings restricted to friends only, a manager at the company might be friends with her. Or someone who supports the company could screenshot the photos and send them to the company's lawyer.

The people on either side of a lawsuit might also turn to social media to vent frustrations. For example, a small-business owner being sued could badmouth the plaintiff, which is unprofessional and could hurt the owner's defense.

A press release or social media release might share too much

A company that is sued might be in a hurry to get ahead of the news and to control the spin. One way to do this is through a press release that also goes up on the company's Facebook page and website. Many companies have lawyers to vet press releases, but a few do not. As a result, some press releases share too much information before anything has gone into an official record. Some statements could be flat out wrong, unverified or seem like they are trying to cover something up. What is said may come back later to hurt the company.

It is often important that the parties to an employment lawsuit in Colorado find qualified attorneys and listen to their attorneys' advice. For example, an attorney will commonly say that any communications about the lawsuit must go through him or her. This includes seemingly casual and harmless social media posts.