SHRM: Employees have no protection for hate speech, big gaffes on social media
- SHRM warns that hateful comments and embarrassing gaffes on social media can still cost employees their jobs. It's a common occurrence for employees to be fired after their boss finds out they've made hateful or otherwise inappropriate comments on Twitter or Facebook.
- Social media can also be a distraction, says SHRM. Take the example of the accountant who, while tweeting, handed over the wrong envelope to presenters at this year's Oscar ceremonies. Though the accountant wasn’t fired from his day job, he was banned indefinitely from the Oscars.
- Attorney Donna Ballman told SHRM that some states have laws preventing employees from firing workers for non work-related activity. But Eric Meyer, partner and chair of the Social Media Practice Group, said there’s no protection for hateful commentary.
Social media’s power is in its broad reach. When workers use it as a conduit for hateful commentary, even on their own time and devices, their employers’ values and integrity are jeopardized. This situation isn’t much different from employers being held liable for employees’ off-site indiscretions.
Preparing effectively for incidents on social media means having clear, defined policies on what constitutes proper conduct, supplmented with training. If your employee handbook doesn't include a social media policy, it's well past time for an update.
SHRM points to the example an employer who fired a worker over his offensive tweets. The company’s reason for the firing was that the comments didn’t reflect its values. The employer might not have hired the worker initially if it had known about his character, and this point should be reflected in a company 'post-mortem.'
This isn't to say that social media has no positive place in human resources. Indeed, employees demand social media functionality when applying for new jobs and participating in organizational training. Consider also the concept of "social recognition" in order to celebrate their employee's accomplishments.