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Santee Cooper Senior Employee Fired Over Twitter Post

How thin is that line between your First Amendment right for Freedom of Speech and NRLA regulations or employer social media policies?  According to Career Builder, 18 percent of employers have fired an employee over a social media post. Not only are employers firing employees over social media post, but they are also making personal social media postings research part of the screening process not only new hires but also for promotions. For a Santee Cooper employee, the answer to this question should have been NOT to post. 

Company Background

Santee Cooper is a South Carolina state owned electric and water utility.  They are the only power producing company in the state of South Carolina.  They sell the electricity that they produce to wholesale customers who in turn sell it to other cooperatives.  They also wholesale water through Santee Cooper Regional Water System and Lake Marion Regional Water System.   They are governed by 14-member Board of Directors.  Their mission “is to be the state’s leading resource for improving the quality of life for the people of South Carolina.” All this information is found on Santee Cooper Fingertip Facts 2021.

National Labor Relations Board

According to the NLRB’s website, Congress passed the National labor Relations Act (NLRA) to encourage collective bargaining for the protection of workers’ full freedom of association.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a federal agency that provides employees with the fundamental right to seek better working conditions and designation of representation without fear of retaliation.  However, an employee can lose this right if they post content on their social media that is a malicious attack or post “personal gripes”.

Santee Cooper Employee Posting

In 2020, Santee Cooper was under racial scrutiny after several twitter posts were made from one of their senior engineer employees replying to someone’s posting in regard to protesters organizing at the John C Calhoun statue in Charleston, SC. 

The Santee Cooper employee posted comments, “How about these people just go back where they came from in the first place?”, “We are paying dearly for the big mistake of bringing them here.”, and “I wish we could load them on a boat and send it one way back where they came from.” 

These posts were made all on the same day within an hour or less of each other. A comment was made on one of the Santee Cooper’s posting informing everyone on that site and that was reading her comments who she was and her position in Santee Cooper. Even though the comments have now been deleted off of twitter, all it takes is a Google search to find them with screenshots. 

The post was made after 5pm (Santee Cooper’s hours of operation are Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM) and as of the next morning Santee Cooper reported that the individual had been terminated from the company. Santee Cooper posted several tweets replying to people of the employee’s termination

To conclude, it really is true with what they say that anything you put online never goes away.  Even if your profile is “private” or you don’t have your employer tagged to your profile.  information, all it takes is one person to know.     

This can be a large stigma for this person when searching for another job.  Your social media is truly the first impression that you are giving to someone.  I understand why Santee Cooper chose the action and response that they did.  

How do you feel about social media and the workplace?  How transparent is the line between Freedom of Speech and an organization’s social media policy? 

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