A question that often comes up in employment law circles is how much latitude an employer has in disciplining an employee for off-work conduct, particularly, on social media. It is not at all uncommon for employers to have a code of conduct or ethics policies that apply to the behavior of their employees both on and off the job. The employment at-will doctrine generally provides employers the leeway needed to cut ties with employees who act or say things that are off color or offensive, even when it is not related to the job itself. A recent case out of Pittsburgh put the limits of this leeway to the test.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently ruled that Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it fired a woman because of her social media activity. See Ellis v. Bank of New York Mellon, No. 20-2061 (3d Cir. March 4, 2021). The case arises from a Facebook post by Lisa Ellis, who worked for BNY Mellon as a senior control analyst.