As a result, at least one of the men has been terminated from their job for their actions at the sporting event.
After one of the men was identified as working for Hydro One through social media (although he was not wearing any company apparel nor did he mention Hydro One during the interview), the utility announced that he was terminated for not complying with their Code of Business Conduct. In addition, once the man's name was made public it was also advertised that his salary was over $106K since he is listed on Ontario's Sunshine List (which shares salary information for anyone who works for any Ontario government agency earning at least $100K per year).
Controversial HR Questions:
The fact that one of the men was fired from his job for actions outside of the workplace raises a number of difficult HR questions.:
- Does an employer have any right to judge an employee based on their actions outside of work?
- Is it unfair for one individual to be punished so severely for (admittedly abhorrent) behaviour being done by thousands of others?
- Does the fact that the men seemed to be intoxicated during the exchange and that it could be argued the reporter was "goading" them into making additional comments live on TV change your opinion?
- Does CityTV news -- that decided to broadcast this recorded exchange which was not a live broadcast in such a way that kept the mens' faces clearly identifiable -- hold any responsibility for the international outcry against this individual?
- Although many may find the public shaming and personal identification of the man as a Hydro One employee as empowering to victims of sexual harassment, does the fact that the company terminated him partially due to the social media reaction open the door for others using this tactic -- potentially without any other proof?
You may also want to see our 2014 blog "Employees Behaving Badly Outside of Work" (including NFL player Ray Rice) or our 2013 blog on the TV Big Brother Contestants who were terminated from their real-life jobs for behaviour on the TV show.
If an employer becomes aware of an employee's behaviour outside of the workplace that is criminal (i.e. arrested for a DUI, possession of child pornography, domestic violence) or deemed "immoral" by the employer (i.e. affiliation with a controversial organization, issuing vulgarities at a news reporter at a soccer game), they may wish to remove that person from the organization, even if the employee's actions took place exclusively outside of the workplace.
The question becomes whether or not they can terminate “for cause” and not have to pay out the appropriate termination pay and/or severance.
- Does the employee’s behaviour specifically damage the reputation of your organization or is it simply abhorrent to the employer? For example, was the employee wearing a company uniform while participating in the activity or was your company named in any media coverage related to the incident? In this particular case, the terminated man was not wearing anything that identified him with Hydro One, but others who saw him online identified him as an employee of the organization and began posting comments on Hydro One's sites.
- Does the employee have a known addiction to alcohol or drugs? If so, this is considered a disability in Ontario and terminating them may result in a Human Rights challenge. It does appear that the men were intoxicated, but it is not known if any of them have an addiction. Does the stadium hold any responsibility for the men's behaviour when they have made money serving them alcohol?
- Does your company have written policies regarding terminations for non-workplace behaviour? Do you have an enforceable “morals clause” in your employment agreement? Have you consistently applied this policy in the past? Most people agree that anyone in a management or executive level at a company, in a sales role, or in a spokesperson role clearly represents the company's brand 24/7. It is much less clear for non-public facing employees.
- Does the nature of the incident hamper the employee’s ability to perform their work duties? For example, a teacher or camp counselor involved in a public scandal may not be able to work with minors. A sales person or truck driver who regularly visits the United States may no longer be able to cross the border with an arrest record. In this incident, it may have been very difficult for this individual to work along with female employees who were offended by his actions. It also may have created a situation where female employees, including those who may be reporting to him, may have felt unsafe in their work environment.
Clear Path has an informative, one-hour webinar that helps address some of the issues involved in terminating an employee and suggestions on how to make the process as positive as possible for your organization and the individual being terminted.