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‘Employee’s accountability for social media post’

  • Category
    Ethics
  • Published
    9th Feb, 2021
  • Recently, an employee of Kannur International Airport was reportedly terminated from his post after the person criticised the state government on his Facebook post.
  • The employee was apparently unhappy with the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and made his opinions public. Getting busted for posting something offensive on social media is not a new phenomenon.

Introduction

  • Recently, an employee of Kannur International Airport was reportedly terminated from his post after the person criticised the state government on his Facebook post.
  • The employee was apparently unhappy with the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and made his opinions public. Getting busted for posting something offensive on social media is not a new phenomenon.
  • James Gunn, a filmmaker, was removed from the director’s chair for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, when his past tweets came haunting.
  • However, in his case, it was a matter of political opinions and sharing them on social media.
  • Having a say about an issue of national concern and expressing it on social media has been one of the routine activities in the last couple of years.
  • That has quite often led to many terminations as well.
  • This is not the lone case. Recently, India’s tech giant Infosys also terminated the services of an employee who wrote an “inappropriate post” on social media.
  • One of the more current ethical issues in business is the question of employees’ personal behavior on social media outside of work hours.
  • However, there’s still quite a large gray area of situations that may or may not make it ethically justifiable to fire an employee for their social media conduct.

Here are a few questions to consider with regards to this ethical dilemma in business:

  • Is it right to punish employees for certain types of social media posts?
  • Are businesses obligated to keep an employee who holds distasteful views and expresses them online?

So, question arises whether it is correct to terminate an employee for his /her personal post on social media.

  • It’s fair not to sever ties with an employee just because her/his tweet is politically motivated. An allegation of any sort needs to be investigated and a fair chance has to be given to the person to explain.
  • These days, social media is its own judge. For instance, let’s assume there is a junior in a multinational IT company who posts something about Kashmir or Muslims. Immediately, someone picks it up and insinuates that it is an American company’s view of India. This is the problem with social media.
  • The problem is one can’t wear one’s company’s identity and put a video that denounces a gender, government, leader or community.
  • The employer, doesn’t care if the employee has a personal view, because that is not reflective of the company’s view. The problem arises when these two start merging.
  • The best thing to do will be to just follow the company’s social-media policy. No company stops anyone from sharing their views on social media as an individual.

Many companies have elaborate social-media guidelines that employees have to adhere to. They are discouraged from writing anything unworthy about the organisation in a public forum. But what about political thoughts and reasoning? Should they be regulated as well? If yes, is it fair to curb someone’s personal opinion?

  • It all depends on the code of ethics of the company. Many dissuade employees from putting any politically-motivated posts on social media.
  • Nowadays, the internet serves as a hard disc once one puts out something on it, it stays for good.
  • One can, of course, have a debate on soft topics, but anti-national posts should not be tolerated. One can have a neutral or mild opinion. If they are not offensive, it is okay.
  • Freedom of expression cannot be mistaken as a means to write whatever one wants. It may hurt the reputation of the company.
  • Many people believes such a thing always warrants a sacking. One can give a warning to the employee as well and ask them to remove those posts. One can’t wear one’s company’s identity and put a video that denounces a gender, government, leader or community.

Social media is not going anywhere now that it is serving its purpose in more ways than one. For most people, this is the only gateway to share what they want to express. Many nameless and faceless entities are voicing their views and concerns on a regular basis now. For the young people, the way to get their views registered is through social media. It’s a big influencer. They find a lot of comfort in being faceless, nameless activists.”

Company like Indigo has a very clear social-media policy. It doesn’t take away anybody’s right to express what they want to on social media, as long as that doesn’t come in the way of Indigo as a business enterprise. However, it is also advisable that one has to be responsible to not badmouth any key individual of the country just because they have a device in their hands. With the ability to be nameless and faceless also comes social responsibility.

When is it right to fire an employee over Social Media Posts?

  • When their behavior clearly crosses a stated employer policy or other obvious line, such as being threatening or harassing toward other employees.
  • When the behavior is clearly violating the social media policy, or when the employee is on social media for personal use while on the clock. (This likely wouldn’t be something that would result in termination for a first offense, but it could escalate.)
  • Behaving in a way that tarnishes the employer’s reputation, either by association or simply from the employee’s conduct.
  • Divulging confidential information.
  • Posting things that prove the employee has lied to the organization, such as taking medical or disability-related leave but then showing on social media that the reason for the leave was not valid.

When is it wrong to fire an employee over Social Media Posts?

  • When the post is protected in some way. The most prominent example that some employers overlook or get wrong: Employees should not be fired when their social media post could be considered “concerted activity” and could, therefore, be protected activity under various laws and regulations.
  • When there are specific rules that must be followed before a termination (and those are not followed).
    • For example, there may be contractual stipulations with the employee’s union that outline steps that must be taken before any termination. If those steps aren’t followed, the termination may be illegal even if it would have been fine otherwise.
  • When the social media post represents some other protected activity, like whistle-blowing, or protected reporting of something else, such as discrimination or harassment.
  • When the employee are protected through the laws and regulation.
  • When it comes to employee etiquette on social media, the bottom line for most companies is that the employee can be justifiably fired if the activity is deemed disloyal or financially harmful to the company. Of course, neither employer nor employees would want to get to a point like that.

What can company do about ethical issues related to social media?

  • Addressing ethical problems in company connected to social media can be tricky mainly because most situations will fall in the gray area.
  • To help eliminate confusion or disclarity for employer, the best step to take is to create a set of rules and policies that clearly describe what is (and isn’t) acceptable for employees to do on social media. Company’s guidelines for employee behavior on social media should be paired with training sessions and periodic company-wide reminders via email.
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