Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Jemele Hill story underscores employees lack of understanding about personal social media and work

Social media has irreparably torn down the wall that has historically separated one’s work life from one’s personal life.

Earlier this week, ESPN personality Jemele Hill learned this lesson the hard way.

The network suspended Ms. Hill for violating its social media policy. Her tweets called on fans to boycott the Dallas Cowboys if its owner, Jerry Jones, disciplines players who kneel for the national anthem.

Here are a few of the tweets that got her in trouble with her employer (which, for the record, pays the NFL $2 billion per year for broadcasting rights).

And, ESPN’s statement announcing her suspension:

Yesterday, Employment Law 360 interviewed me about this story, specifically on the value of social media policies for employers. I spoke about the fallacy of a separation between one’s work life and one’s personal life on social media.

There’s still a misconception that there is this separation. I think what history is going to say about social media is that what it ultimately did was irreparably rip down the wall between the workplace and one’s personal life.

To put it another way, employees have not yet realized that anything they say online can impact their professional persona, and that every negative or offensive statement could lead to discipline or termination. Until people fully understand that social media has erased the line between the personal and the professional, these issues will continue to arise. It is our job as employers to help educate our employees about living in this new online world, because it is clear that not all employees have yet learned this lesson.