How to Address an Unflattering Video of an Employee

January 25th, 2019

Robin Shea at Constangy


Memo for Unflattering Social Media Content

A PR statement employers may want to save for a rainy day.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: TBD (embargo until needed)
Contact: Corporate Communications Director

Our company is an equal opportunity employer, and we take pride in our diversity. Today on [Twitter][Instagram][Facebook][Snapchat][Other] a video was posted that seemed to show one of our employees behaving in a manner that grossly violates our corporate values and what we stand for.

At one time, we would have taken the video at face value and immediately terminated the employee. However, video taken by private individuals on their personal mobile devices can no longer be considered conclusive evidence. As we have seen again and again, the recording may not begin until after significant explanatory, exculpatory, or precipitating events have already occurred. Other times, video may be selectively edited to create a misleading and sometimes even defamatory impression.

Even if the social media posting is covered in the legitimate news media, it cannot necessarily be trusted. Unfortunately, the legitimate news media often treat social media controversies as newsworthy in and of themselves. On numerous occasions, we have seen even the legitimate news media backtrack after having rushed to judgment based on social media postings.

Meanwhile, innocent people can be hurt, threatened, and defamed, and their livelihoods ruined.

Accordingly, we will no longer reflexively take action based on social media postings or video taken on private individuals' mobile devices.

We will treat social media postings or private videos as one part of a potentially larger picture. We will conduct a full investigation of all the relevant facts at our disposal before determining what happened and what action, if any, to take. If our full investigation gives us reason to believe that the employee violated our standards of behavior or corporate values, we will take appropriate action, up to and including termination of employment. If we have reason to believe that the employee violated the law, we will cooperate with law enforcement. However, in all cases, we will strive to act on actual facts and complete evidence to the best of our ability.

We owe this much to our employees and to the public we serve. 

We will issue another statement after our investigation is complete.


This blog was written by Robin Shea at Constangy, which authors our Model Policies and Forms for Georgia Employers and our New Jersey Human Resources Manual. You can find the original on their Employment & Labor Insider blog (which is one of our favorites and is excellent).