A client of ours has recently presented us with the following scenario….

A new starter, Connor, who has less than six months service, is a member of a religious group who actively creates and publishes online video content on YouTube and Facebook, with the intent to offer guidance to their audience. Connor creates and publishes videos in his personal time.

One of the videos posted by Connor contains strong homophobic content and is brought to the attention of management by another employee, Derek. Derek says that a client found the video online and complained to him. When asked, Derek would not name the client, and whilst not gay Derek said he felt unsafe working alongside Connor after watching his video.

Connor has freedom of speech and the right to post online about his beliefs, especially in his personal time and via personal social media accounts. When asked Connor did not deny posting the video in question and stated that he was quoting verses from the Bible.

We advised an investigation to establish the following… 

  • Why does Derek say that he does not feel safe at work?
  • What exactly is the content of the video?
  • How is the video being perceived as intimidating?
  • How did the video come to the attention of the client?
  • Is this a grievance from Derek?
  • Is a personal activity now becoming an issue?
  • Has Connor affiliated the business within the video?
  • How is it affecting the work environment?
  • Can Derek continue to work with Connor?
  • Have the client and Connor connected on social media?
  • Is there a Social Media Policy in the Staff Handbook?
  • Are Connors activities in breach of this Policy?
  • Is the Social Media Policy comprehensive enough?
  • Is the content of the video homophobic?
  • Is there an Equal Opportunities Policy in place?

We advised our client to… 

Treat Derek’s complaint as a grievance. There is a duty of care to ensure that all employees feel safe at work. Derek did not want to disclose his source of information, which frustrated the investigation.

It was confirmed to Derek that Connor is entitled to freedom of speech and unless a direct link between the video and the company is found there is not much that can be done, despite the fact Derek disapproved of the content. In addition, it is a reminder that Equal Opportunities and Social Media Policies are a vital component of the Staff Handbook.

Connor was invited to an investigatory meeting to discuss this, and he was made aware that his videos could be perceived as offensive by other individuals and that such opinions cannot be expressed in the workplace.

Connor openly accepted that he had created the videos, to validate his religious conviction however on reflection he understood that others may not share his views and volunteered to take the videos down. This was done with immediate effect.

Furthermore he was asked to ensure his accounts are set to private and that there are no links between his accounts and the business.

If any of the above sounds familiar please call AHR Consultants on 0345 076 2288 to ensure that the actions you take protect you and the business.

Whilst the scenario above is uncommon it is a perfect example of personal and professional life merging.

Our client has given consent for us to use this case study. The scenario is real, the names are not. All names have been changed to protect the employees and the business.