We’ve looked at why it is important to run a social media risk assessment before hiring a candidate, but what happens if you delay a social media risk assessment or do one later in an employee’s time with you? How do you decide if the employee’s social media posts warrant disciplinary action? 

Perhaps you’ve hired Ms. Jones, who was during the interview, a delight, and a hard worker, all the proper screening and vetting took place, including a social media risk assessment, and everything came up clear. You hire Ms. Jones and for a while, all goes well. Now, a year or two down the line, you see a post by iFacts suggesting regular screening and vetting for current employees too, so you decide to rescreen your staff. When you get to the social media risk assessment component of screening, you discover Ms. Jones has been posting some very questionable things on her Facebook page.  

What can you as the company do about these posts? Do they relate at all to your company? Will they cause damage to your professional reputation?  

Thankfully, there are laws outlining what criteria need to be met by the employee’s social media activity to justify disciplinary action. You cannot simply fire someone for posting something you don’t agree with, however, if an employee is posting things that could well damage the reputation or good standing of your company, you may proceed with disciplinary action, provided the criteria are met. 

What are the criteria? 

First, the conduct is so obviously problematic that it doesn’t even need to be pointed out. 

In this case, Ms. Jones has been regularly posting some xenophobic things. Her posts are essentially “hate speech” and just generally not socially acceptable. This is something everyone knows is wrong and need not be pointed out.  

This meets the first of the criteria needed for disciplinary action. 

Secondly, a connection or link between the activity and the employer must be established. 

So, Ms. Jones is posting xenophobic things on Facebook. She works for your company, which is in the immigration sector, which is stated in her profile, “Ms. Jones, Immigration Attorney at Immigration Attorneys R Us”. Also, her entire profile is public. This is a connection between your company, Immigration Attorneys R Us, Ms Jones, and her hateful posts. This will not reflect well on your company that makes its money on people wishing to live in a country they were not born in – making the xenophobic comments, unacceptable.  

This meets the second of the criteria needed for disciplinary action. 

Of course, how relevant, and how damaging the online behaviour could be is influenced by a variety of other factors. These factors include “the size of the employer, the nature and size of the workforce, the nature of the work performed by the employer, the relevant employee, the capacity of the employee to do the job, the position of the employer in the marketplace and profile, the relationship between the employee and the victim, the impact of the misconduct on the workforce, and the relationship between the employer and the employee” according to Sallr.  

In the case of Ms. Jones, disciplinary action can be taken. However, we believe prevention is better than cure. You need to have in place, policies or guidelines that outline what is and is not appropriate to be posting on social media or in instant messaging. You cannot fire an employee if they were never told they could not post hate speech on Facebook. Unfortunately, this needs to be stated outright, prior to hiring. 

Above all else, proper and regular screening and vetting which includes social media risk assessments, needs to be conducted on current employees.  
iFacts can help.  

Hire with confidence. Hire with iFacts. 

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