Gerri Cannon said she is not a racist even though she admitted to writing a racial slur in a social media post. That ignited a fierce Facebook firestorm, which caused her to lose her job in March as a mortgage loan services officer at the $158 million MTC Federal Credit Union in Greenville, S.C.

Many users of Facebook and other social media sites called Cannon a racist and applauded MTC for firing her. Others argued her constitutional right to free speech was violated and she should not have been fired because she posted the comment on her personal time and personal Facebook site.

Although the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting free speech, legal and social media experts agree that, in general, the First Amendment does not apply to private employers who can fire anyone for any reason. Nevertheless, Cannon, her lawyer, and legal and social media experts said this incident provides valuable lessons such as leveraging best practices to ensure employees are educated about on the job and off the job social media policies.

Should social media policies specify disciplinary actions regarding personal online behavior?
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