Oct 29, 2015

By Eric B. Meyer

On Tuesday, a Fox affiliate in Arizona reported that an intern at a health and wellness company was fired for an offensive tweet.

Specifically, the intern tweeting a photo showing her and a friend in a cotton field with the caption “Our inner n****r came out today.” The intern quickly deleted the tweet, but not before it went viral.

For what it’s worth, the intern contacted her employer to share what happened. And she is apologizing for her behavior. But, to the employer’s credit, it immediately fired the intern and condemned the intern’s actions.

So, you’d think that would be it.

Apparently, the intern is sorry, but not sorry

That is, she appears to have deleted the Twitter account from which she made the offensive tweet, and started a new account. And on that new account, well, check out some of the tweets I’ve embedded below. (If you’re getting this post via email and have trouble viewing the tweets, just click here).

And then, believe it or not, this now “former” intern had the gall to question her company’s judgment in firing her for the offensive tweet.

No, sorry. The First Amendment doesn’t apply in the private sector. And frankly, it wouldn’t apply in this situation to a government intern either.

Employee actions can impact on the workplace

What many employees fail to realize is that what you say and do on social media in your “personal life” does impact your “professional life” and your employer.

In this particular situation, other Twitter users, like this one, connected the intern to her employer. Imagine then, what would have happened had the employer looked the other way?

Suppose the intern’s “filter” fails and she later makes similar comments in the workplace. Now, you’re looking at a possible hostile work environment which the employer could have avoided by taking reasonable steps (i.e., termination or, at a minimum, some counseling).

So, as employers, if you find yourself in a similar situation — even if the tweets are “off-the-clock” — you may also find yourself under a social media microscope.

How will you respond?

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.