Opinion: Expressing nonthreatening, nondiscriminatory political thoughts on social media should not be a fireable offense

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I never gave much thought to what I tweeted … until I got fired for it.

I started working for a Christian nonprofit at the end of May. It was my dream summer job; I got to travel and serve God through missions. During training in Colorado, we were told to “watch” our social media. Naturally, I assumed that “watch” meant no foul language or illegal behavior. I did not post things of that nature anyway, so I figured I was safe.

I left training on June 8 to go to San Diego, where I would help run a community service camp for youth groups. On the second day of camp, one of my bosses in Colorado called me. He said I was fired. He did not give a specific reason; he just said I was not fit to work for them. Immediately this did not add up. One of my coworkers backed the company car into the building, another failed to order us enough food and yet I was the one being fired?

Once I was home in Kansas, I started to put the pieces together. Shortly before I was fired, I retweeted a tweet from Ellen DeGeneres’ account that supported gay rights. The tweet read: “30 states legal. 20 to go. The tides have turned. Equality. #20ToGo.”

With 50 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage and 41 percent opposed, according to a Washington Post and ABC News poll, gay rights is a controversial issue in many circles, including the church. I am a Christian, and I fully support gay rights. The company’s position on gay rights was never made explicitly known to me, but after perusing their website, I learned that they “Believe in a literal translation of the Bible,” and “hold conservative values.” That reaffirmed my belief that I was fired for supporting gay rights on Twitter.

According to the BBC, one in 10 job seekers between the ages of 16-34 have been rejected for a job because of something posted on their social media accounts. I can understand not hiring someone because they represent themselves as a drunken buffoon online, but I don’t think people should be fired or not hired for their political beliefs. My thoughts on gay rights won’t affect how I do my current job, my next job, or how I did my last one. With 40 percent of Americans identifying as Independents, 31 as Democrats, and 27 as Republicans according to a 2012 Gallup poll, we all disagree on many things, especially in respect to government and politics.

Therefore, I believe you should not fire dedicated, hard-working people when their ideologies do not precisely align with your own. It does not make business or economic sense. I should not live in fear that opinions I express, as a voting citizen who cares about the issues, will get me fired.

I should not have been fired for expressing my personal political beliefs on my personal Twitter account. Unless the post is threatening or dangerous, no one should. If your political beliefs about taxes, gay rights, education, war, or welfare do not affect how you do your job or interact with coworkers, then they should not result in your termination. However, this may not even be illegal: NoLo.com states that many people are employed “at-will,” which means a company can fire them for any reason that isn’t illegal.

If I could go do it all again, I still would have stood by my convictions and retweeted that tweet. However, when they called to fire me, I would have asked more questions and demanded answers instead of just taking it. Since then, I have been selected to help operate another Christian camp. This time, they checked my social media and told me their stance on gay rights during the application process, for which I am grateful.

There are many companies in the world, religious and secular. None of them should fire you without a full, honest explanation, and none of them should fire you for voicing a nonthreatening, nondiscriminatory political opinion online.

If you believe you were terminated unfairly, you can file a compliant with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or sue for wrongful termination. To file in person, visit the office at 400 State Ave. Suite 905 Kansas City, Kansas. To file by phone, call 1-800-669-4000.

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