Terminating an employee is never easy, even when it is an employer's only reasonable option. Making matters more complicated is the fact that a fired employee has many avenues on social media to make negative comments about his or her former employer. Employers are justifiably concerned about damage to its brand. The question becomes, how far can or should an employer go to protect its reputation online?
A former punter for the NFL is in a conflict with his former team over whether he was terminated as a result of his advocacy in favor of same-sex marriage. Chris Kluwe was known by sports fans as a punter for the Vikings before he was compelled to take action and speak out on the issue of same-sex marriage. Now Mr. Kluwe says that his activism made him a target on the team and that his boss made homophobic comments and eventually fired him for his comments supporting the gay community. Now many are watching as an independent investigation proceeds and Mr. Kluwe engages in a media campaign to prove that he was fired for the wrong reasons.
A federal judge recently ruled in favor of a Maryland woman who had been working as a dancer at a nightclub for about five years when she was fired in 2012. The woman sued seeking payment for back wages since she believed she had been wrongfully terminated. The case rested on whether or not the dancer was engaged at the nightclub as an employee or an independent contractor. The judge ruled that based on the facts she was in fact an employee and therefore is entitled to compensation.
For the average reader who has never had a serious ethical concern about their employer’s activities, it probably seems clear-cut that it is right to report something that is unethical or illegal. However, when faced with a real-life decision the issues can become fuzzier as employees try to balance doing what they think is right with keeping their jobs, providing for their families, and maintaining a good reputation.