NEW ORLEANS—“The law is just catching up to reality” as it pertains to social media and what first responders can—and cannot—post, according to Meredith Campbell, employment lawyer with Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, who made the statement during a presentation at APCO 2014.

Campbell outlined some of the most salient aspects of social-media lawa legal area that is still developingand used some real life examples to demonstrate the complications of social-media law, as well as the serious ramifications for public-safety employees posting comments and pictures.

One example Campbell shared was of a senator who announced on his Facebook page that four fire departments in the state were going to get funding. A dispatcher heard about the post, went on the senator’s Facebook page and wrote that the senator was cheap, that the companies that were chosen were the worst fire departments, and did not deserve to get the funding. The woman who made the postings was subsequently fired.

Was it OK that she was fired? The answer is "Yes," according to Campbell.

The scenario shows just how complicated and tricky the laws around social media are, particularly as they pertain to public-safety employees. Had the employee been talking about the terms and conditions of her employment, had she used collective language instead of individual language, or had her co-workers chimed in and commented on the post, her job might have been preserved, according to Campbell.

“If you are talking about the terms and the conditions of your employment, then language can get a little salty,” she said.

Otherwise. responders and other employees should be extremely cautious when posting about work and their employers, according to Campbell.

In West Virginia, a 30-year-old man was stung by a bee and got into a terrible accident, where he crashed his truck into a tree and died, Campbell recounted. An EMT worker arrived at the scene and took pictures of the crash. The EMT worker subsequently posted the pictures to social media, which were viewed by the victim’s parents.

“This case encouraged several states, most recently Massachusetts, to pass legislation that specifically prohibits first responders from posting these types of pictures on social-media sites,” Campbell said.

Some first responders question the prohibition, noting that “the media is allowed to post these pictures,” she said. “But it is not the first responders job to take pictures—and at least not take them and post them to social media.”