On 10 July 2016, a Mount Buller Reindeer Ski Club employee posted to Facebook a scathing assessment of guests employed by recruitment company, Michael Page Recruitment. The Ski Club employee alleged that the 22 guests caused a nuisance, were heavily intoxicated and became abusive to her and the Ski Club’s Manager.
On 10 July 2016, a Mount Buller Reindeer Ski Club employee posted to Facebook a scathing assessment of guests employed by recruitment company, Michael Page Recruitment (the Company). The Ski Club employee alleged that the 22 guests caused a nuisance, were heavily intoxicated and became abusive to her and the Ski Club’s Manager.
The post detailed that the guests had left rooms in a mess, leaving broken glass on surfaces, rubbish on floors and food and clothes on benches. The employee also stated that guests became aggressive, approaching her and the Manager’s lodgings many times during the middle of the night and early morning angrily demanding that the electricity be fixed. The police were eventually called to attend the Ski Club.
The Facebook post was made public, asked followers to share it with the Company and included a photo of two male guests who were alleged to be involved in the aggressive and abusive behaviour.
It garnered enough social media attraction that the following business day, the Company posted a response addressing the claims. Whilst acknowledging the complaint and offering apologies, the Company was also careful to distance itself from the behaviour, explaining that the ski stay was not funded or sanctioned by the Company. The Company stated that an internal investigation would be carried out.
Not less than three days later however, the Company had announced that it had concluded its investigation and while the outcome was confidential, assured that disciplinary action had been taken against those involved.
Social media judgment was swift: followers expressed disbelief and disgust at the behaviour and questions were asked about the Company’s expectations of employees and they criticised the ‘light’ disciplinary action taken. Many also stated that they would never use the Company again in the future.
Previously it was mainly sportspeople who had their conduct questioned on social media. As demonstrated above, social media is now being used to draw attention to the (mis)behaviour of employees from all types of industries. In our blog from March this year “Video on demand – the Danger to Employers for Employees Caught Behaving Badly” we highlighted the risks to employers and the damage to the business caused by employees conduct where the conduct is shared online.
Whether sanctioned by the Company or not, the conduct of those employees on the ski trip has brought adverse attention to the Company. This was further compounded when the Company’s response was also criticised.
Whether an employer should discipline an employee for the out of work conduct is a difficult question. A number of factors should be considered including the nature of the conduct, reputational damage to the business and any breach of the employment contract. Here, the Company was required to make comment as the result of the public association (whether sanctioned or not) of the behaviour with its business.
Employer responses confirming their organisational values and demonstrating intolerance for behaviour that undermines those values may go some way to repairing the organisation’s reputation in the marketplace. Of course, no matter how annoyed the employer may be – it should not forget its obligations in relation to its dealings with its employees – ensuring procedural fairness where and when required.
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