Hate speech on social media

I’ve just been sent a screenshot of a comment that one of my employees made on Facebook. This comment is just horrible and offensive and clearly racist. It is completely the opposite of what my company stands for. Can I do anything about it? Like, dismiss her (preferably)? I don’t have any social media policy, or any other policy for that matter. It’s one of those things I mean to do but never get around to. What worries me is that anyone who goes onto this person’s profile will be able to see that my company employs her. I just don’t need that kind of media attention right now.      

The answer is: it depends.

The publication of hate speech on social media can indeed lead to dismissal. And you don’t necessarily need to have implemented a social media policy or similar policy that prohibits such conduct (although policies and procedures are always advisable). But dismissal is not a cookie-cutter approach. Every instance of misconduct is decided on its merits. Therefore, whether you can dismiss your employee depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding the misconduct. Which in this case would be the circumstances around and contents of your employee’s post on Facebook.

Our recommendation to you would be to take swift action, because the longer you delay, the lower your chance of successfully disciplining your employee. First and foremost, we suggest that you schedule an appointment with your HR specialist to determine what the appropriate course of action would be, and whether the misconduct warrants dismissal, alternatively a warning. And once you’ve addressed this issue you may want to turn your attention to your policies and procedures.

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