Can an employer “catch ’em all”? – social media and termination
In certain circles, the launch of the much anticipated Pokémon Go app at the beginning of July caused quite a stir. For those of us who may not be familiar with it, this is a free location-based reality mobile game, based on the popular Pokémon franchise. Players can “catch” the Pokémon characters in real-world locations.
As with many products, it is not yet available in every country. Sonny Truyen, who, (at the time) was vice president of digital marketing for a property site, 99.co, was looking forward to playing the game. The fact that it was unavailable in his location (Singapore) was utterly unacceptable to him.
What did the employee say?
Upset, Mr Truyen, an Australian national, wrote “You can’t expletive catch Pokémon in this piece of expletive obscenity country.” Other Facebook users took exception to this and there was an ensuing dispute in which Mr Truyen labelled Singapore as a country filled with “stupid people” suggesting that the national IQ would drop should he choose to leave.
What happened next?
His online opposition soon found out where Mr Truyen worked. Complaints poured onto the company’s Facebook page. Within 24 hours, the company felt it necessary to apologise, explaining that Mr Truyen was a recent hire. Although he had deleted the original post, as many of us know, once something is out on the internet is it practically impossible to fully remove it (watch out for screenshots). The Company stated:
“We are a proud Singaporean company and do not condone such language or behaviour, hence we have since terminated his engagement once the incident came to light.”
What can employers learn from this?
The company stated “We take responsibility for the public behaviour of any employee or consultant affiliated with us as a reflection of the company.”
The actions of their employee had directly impacted upon 99.co. This was a case where an employee had made remarks outside the workplace. Although this incident took place in Singapore, Facebook is a global platform and the employee was a national of a different country. A similar situation could arise anywhere, including the Highlands.
Ultimately, although employers cannot “catch ’em all” as far as their employees’ remarks outside of work are concerned, there are steps which can be taken to mitigate damage. Employers should be aware that their employees are increasingly likely to have significant social media habits. A robust social media policy which is tied to disciplinary procedures can protect an employer and prevent a potential PR nightmare. Taking a proactive approach to social media will pay off in the long run.
For more information on:
• Social media policies;
• Disciplinary procedures; or
• Dismissing employees