What does your company do when employees are not representing your organisation’s best interests?

Dec 17, 2014

By Jenny Reid Managing Director of iFacts and Charles Kinnear, Employment & Labour Law
Practitioner at Abcorlaw (iFacts Strategic Partner).

January 2014
Social Media has made self-broadcasters of us all and in many cases; organisations across the world
have recognised the positive facet of this powerful marketing tool. However, how should companies
react when one of their employees uses poor judgement?

Justine Sacco, a New York-based PR executive at IAC was dismissed from the firm in December when
she Tweeted the following comment before boarding a flight to South Africa. : “Going to Africa.
Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

The former, chief communications director’s comments not only resulted in her dismissal from IAC
but sparked global controversy and “rage” donations across the globe to AIDs charities. In a
statement released by AIC, the company said: “The offensive comment does not reflect the views
and values of IAC. We take this issue very seriously, and we have parted ways with the employee in

We fully agree with the decision taken by AIC to fire Justine Sacco. While she was acting in her
private capacity, we do believe that employers have a responsibility to act swiftly when employees
behave thoughtlessly or make defamatory comments that may also reflect very poorly on the
organisations that employ them.

While South Africa and the many other countries around the world do value the freedom of speech,
there must be certain limitations and we certainly cannot afford such blatant and unprecedented
statements on one of the biggest communication platforms in the world.

The case of how much responsibility an employer holds for their employees’ actions is not a new one
and extends beyond the world of Social Media. What if one of your employees assaults a fellow
employee or customer after working hours?In a recent case that came before the CCMA, a mine employee was accused of assaulting and raping
a woman at the mine village. The employer took immediate disciplinary action against the employee
and dismissed him. The employee argued that his dismissal was unfair because his misconduct
occurred outside working hours, had nothing to do with the employer’s business and that criminal
charges were laid against him.

Though the rape allegation was not proven the commissioner found that the employee was guilty of
assault and that the criminal proceedings had no bearing on the labour matter. The commissioner
found the dismissal was fair and the employer had the necessary jurisdiction to discipline the

Employers must always follow a fair process in incidents such as this and obviously not allow a media
storm to cloud their judgement before the correct procedures are followed. However, we believe
that when an employee is found guilty of a crime, the responsibility falls on the employer to protect
the best interests of other employees and the organisation as a whole.

About iFacts:
iFacts removes the people risk so that organisations can go about their business with employees they can
trust. iFacts has a range of services that extend into every aspect of proactive and reactive security activity,
which a company requires for optimum employee performance, loyalty and integrity. From people risk, ethics
and integrity to safety and security and employee wellness, iFacts offers a full range of services to both
individuals and employees that will ensure your organisation is achieving optimum performance.

About Abcorlaw:
Abcorlaw Inc. is an Employment & Labour Law firm with fully integrated Human Resources and Industrial
Relations services. Over the years Abcorlaw has established itself as an excellent recruitment organisation that
offers human resources and industrial relations training with the added value of CCMA, Labour Court and
bargaining council representation.
Issued by Write Scene on behalf of iFacts
For Editorial Enquiries, contact:
Andrea Muller
Write SceneTel: 011 678 5647
Mobile: 076 811 0233
Email: andrea@writescene.co.za
For Further information about iFacts, contact:
Sonya Skipp
General Manager
Tel: 011 609 5124
Mobile: 082 895 2478
Email: sonya@ifacts.co.za

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