Despite the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, U.S workers have limited freedom of speech rights at work. Worryingly, 71.6% of American employees are unaware that freely discussing topics on social media could even land them the sack. On May 9, reporter, Lisa Benson Cooper, claims she was fired from KSHB Channel 41 after she shared a story on her private Facebook page, titled “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of color”. Understandably, employers want to protect their businesses, but is it fair on employees?
Following her firing, Benson Cooper took to Facebook to reveal that she was “suspended for sharing a meme & a Guardian US article on my personal FB page and subsequently told I ‘shall not report to work’ for the duration of my contract.” Meanwhile, she reportedly told the author of the white tears article that she was sacked as a result of “broad, unfair characterizations of white women as a group based on their race and gender.” However, as two of Cooper Benson’s co-workers complained about the post she’d shared to their HR department, they had to investigate. This led the parent company of KSHB-TV, E.W. Scripps Company, to finalize that “Lisa Benson Cooper failed to uphold the social media policy she agreed to as an employee of KSHB”.
Fair for all
Lisa Benson Cooper’s case is due to go to trial next year. No doubt, she hopes to achieve a fair and just conclusion. It’s always worth seeking the advice of an attorney and considering court proceedings when a situation arises in the workplace, just as Erik Gordon did. The court will do their utmost to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the conclusion reached and that an unprejudiced end is reached.
During her 14 years at KSHB, Benson Cooper made other claims that her race had been used against her. In December 2016, she filed a lawsuit against the TV station claiming that her race was “constantly used” when assigning jobs. She also stated that she was passed up for promotions. Following her sacking, she amended the lawsuit to include retaliation. This is no doubt a result of her suspecting that the pending court case was a contributing factor in her dismissal following her Facebook post.
Millions of users believe that social media is a place where they can vent and share content as they please. However, it’s important to note that any information you post in the public eye can be used against you, even when you’re practicing freedom of speech.