my coworker is a Twitter troll

A reader writes:

I have a conundrum. A coworker of mine has said some pretty awful things on social media, and I don’t know what, if anything, to do about it.

I work with this person occasionally. When I was new and had to ask him a few questions about a project, I Googled him to check out his LinkedIn and so on, and the first thing that came up was his Twitter feed, with the company name in his bio. I added him to a list and went on with my day. In the past few months, though, his feed has turned into a fat-shaming Milo-Yiannopoulos-loving bro-fest. He removed the company’s name a few weeks ago — now it has something about “triggering supplicating millennial babies.” Ohhh kay. One of his most recent tweets crossed a major line for me: he used a homophobic slur, specifically to taunt people for being “too sensitive” online.

This guy is in a client-facing position and this Twitter feed is the first thing that comes up on a search for his name.

I don’t know what to do here. I find I’m still pretty upset by his taunt (which, I imagine, is by design), but really I barely know the guy — it’s more the knowledge that my company hired such a nasty person. Dude is a clear outlier, and he already got transferred out of one department for being …himself. I’ve removed him from my lists, naturally.

I feel like our PR folks need to be made aware, though, in case clients look him up and stumble across the hateful rhetoric and lack of judgment. It is a personal feed, but it’s also under his full, fairly unique name. I don’t know if I should confront him, given his broiness and general hateful attitudes – plus, I can avoid him at work, mostly. I also don’t want to remain silent in the face of hateful shit, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would take confrontation well. I don’t know if this is an HR thing, either — I can imagine that his tweeting will poison quite a few relationships.

Do I just need to let it go, try to avoid working with him, and move on? Confront him? Reporting him feels like tattling somehow, even though he’s the one who is being publicly awful and gross.

Most of the time I’m a pretty staunch advocate that what you do in your private life is your business. But that’s really only true as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. If you’re publicly spewing hateful, vile things about other people — and you’re doing it in this era’s equivalent of the town square — it’s fair game for an employer to have concerns about that.

That’s especially true when the employee in question has a client-facing job, and presumably has clients who belong to any number of the groups of people this guy is issuing slurs about. I mean, if you saw that your financial planner or your dentist was posting stuff like this online, would you happily continue taking your business to him? Most people wouldn’t, and that makes it reasonable for your employer to at least want to be aware of it.

And really, even if your co-worker weren’t in a client-facing job, it’s reasonable for an employer to have concerns about what kind of a working environment he might be creating for his colleagues — some of whom are presumably in the groups he’s insulting — and how well he’s able to work with them. (And it actually sounds like that already might have come up as an issue, if I’m interpreting your comment about his transfer correctly.)

All that said, before we go any further it’s reasonable to ask whether making this kind of thing fair game for employers means that we’re opening the door to meddling in other kinds of employee speech. Does it mean that an employer could take issue with an employee posting in favor of reproductive rights, for example, or health-care access? Does it mean that an employer could say “Well, clients will be uncomfortable knowing that you’re gay, so you need to stamp out all online references to your partner”? And if it doesn’t mean that, then why is it okay for employers to intervene when an employee is publicly advocating viewpoint X but not viewpoint Y?

Those are utterly valid questions and they’re important to ask, because if people have to fear employer reprisal, it could make them hesitant to advocate for social change, publicly support a particular candidate for election, or otherwise speak out on issues that are important to them. But in the case of your co-worker, we’re talking about hate speech and bigotry, not just any old political viewpoint that someone might not like. Hate speech and bigotry are different from normal political discourse; we’ve chosen to treat them differently as a society, and it’s reasonable to think that employers have standing to do that too.

So yes, most managers would say that it would be perfectly reasonable for you to give someone at your company a heads-up about this. I hear you that you’re worried about “tattling,” but I’d argue that that’s not really the right framework to use at work. In general, when you’re trying to figure out when a concern is worth raising to someone above you, the question to ask yourself is: How does this impact our work, and by how much? So “Jane posts on Facebook during the day” or “Cecil is always five minutes late” aren’t generally things you’d escalate, but it’s different when something truly does affect the organization’s work.

In this case, you’re not just personally annoyed by your co-worker’s views; you’re concerned about the impact that his posts may have on clients and people in your office. That’s a legit concern, and it’s one most bosses would want to hear about. If they don’t feel the need to act on it, then they won’t act on it. But if they are concerned about its potential impact on work and want to address it, you’ll simply have served as the conduit of information that (a) your company sees as a genuine work-related issue and (b) your co-worker is supplying quite publicly. (It’s not like you went snooping through his email and are forwarding private messages that he didn’t expect to have a broader audience.) And if they don’t end up acting, it will still be seen as a reasonable thing to have raised; they won’t view it like coming to them to report that your co-worker is hogging the microwave or something like that.

As for how to do it, you could simply say it this way: “This seems like a PR disaster waiting to happen, and I felt uncomfortable not bringing it to your attention in case it’s something you’d want to know about.”

I wouldn’t bother confronting your co-worker directly, though. That would make it more of a personal issue between the two of you (and he doesn’t sound terribly open to hearing alternate takes on his postings), and since you’re not in his management chain, you don’t have the authority to address it beyond that. If you happened to have a pretty good relationship with him, you could try saying something like, “Hey, have you considered that you might be turning off clients with your social-media posts?” or “You know, this is the first thing that comes up when you’re googled.” But absent any particular rapport with him, I’d leave it to people above you both to decide how to handle it. You shouldn’t have to convince or cajole him into addressing this, and you shouldn’t have to deal with his ire for confronting him about it (apparently you’d get called a “supplicating millennial baby”). Give your company a heads-up, and let them deal with it from there.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 502 comments… read them below }

  1. Roscoe*

    Honestly, Im not down with companies regulating what someone can and can’t put on social media. If the company’s name was still there, I think it would be an issue, but since its not, I’m pretty on the fence. Because even if I don’t agree with what he is saying, I respect his right to say it.

    From a company PR perspective, I don’t think they should tell him what he can and can’t post, but maybe encourage him to put it on private or something. Even that though may be a bit far.

    It gets too much into policing what people say for me to be really comfortable with this when he is not, in this case, representing your company since he removed the name. (And no, I don’t agree that you are always representing your company) If someone decides to look him up on twitter, thats on them. Because realistically, I can’t see caring what my account rep is doing in their personal time.

    1. Leatherwings*

      As an LGBT person, I would really really care if my account rep were a raging homophobe.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Even *not* as an LGBT person, I would really really care if my account rep were a raging homophobe.

        1. OldAdmin*

          “As an LGBT person, I would really really care if my account rep were a raging homophobe.”
          “Even *not* as an LGBT person, I would really really care if my account rep were a raging homophobe.”


          1. Terra*

            To play devil’s advocate for a minute though there are also people who can and do say “I would really really care if my account rep were a raging Republican” or “”I would really really care if my account rep were a raging fa***t” or any number of other nasty things. I’m not necessarily saying that the coworker here is in the right or should be protected but it’s not always as black and white as “I find this offensive so therefore it should be shut down.” Especially if you risk establishing a precedent or encouraging a company to start monitoring employees social media for anything deemed “offensive”.

            1. Leatherwings*

              Yeah, not the same thing. Someone’s political views aren’t the same thing as hate speech. I’m not saying it should be shut down because it’s offensive to me personally, I’m saying it should be shut down because it’s offensive to an historically disadvantaged group of people (of which I happen to be a member, and feel unsafe when I hear hate speech like this).

              1. mazzy*

                The problem is that to some (uneducated) people think they are the same thing. You don’t want to give others unlimited power to make decisions on information they don’t even understand. Homophobia? Easy to understand. 25 years of experience to understand why someone doesn’t like HRC? That isn’t a given.

                1. Leatherwings*

                  Who’s giving someone unlimited power in this situation? Yeah, I understand that the latter requires a more nuanced understanding of the LGBT rights movement but to me it seems pretty straightforward that the OPs coworker using a straight up slur doesn’t require nuance. The company is allowed to make a decision based on that speech without coming up with a detailed policy on whether supporting the Human Rights Campaign publicly is cool or not.

            2. INFJ*

              “But in the case of your co-worker, we’re talking about hate speech and bigotry, not just any old political viewpoint that someone might not like. ”

              Did you read the full article or just come on to play devil’s advocate?

              1. Terra*

                Just because Alison is advocating a line doesn’t mean the company will adhere to the same line, and my point was if your standard was “customers will find this offensive and leave” customers can find lots of things offensive and threaten to leave over them. If we’re holding hate speech to a higher standard that’s great but then there should be a higher standard not “this will offend customers.” I’ve had bad managers tell me to remove references to RHPS from a FB account that wasn’t even under my real name because it “might offend customers.”

            3. HannahS*

              Do you really not see a difference between someone being a Republican and hating gay people? I don’t understand your comment. This isn’t about people being “offended,” this is about people “fearing for their safety” and “not wanting to be discriminated against” and other “these are real issues, why are there air quotes?”

              1. Cnon*

                And as Allison has said many times, free speech only protects from the govt, not from private employers.

            4. Vicki*

              Yes, but Republicans are not a protected class.

              And I _would_ care if they were a raging homophobic gun nut Republican.

              Your personal reputation used to reflect on your family. Now it reflects on your job. We don’t have to like that, but it does.

              1. Ron Skurat*

                Right; it’s easy enough to change Twitter display name, and if the real @address is that identifiable he can start a new account & re-follow his fellow cretins. It’s not rocket science.

        2. I Love Spreadsheets*

          Agreed. If at all possible, I would certainly take my business somewhere else.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            As the client, I’d probably bring it up and ask if that’s a company attitude. Because I’d want them to know exactly why I was thinking of taking my business to another company. If they were horrified and immediately gave me another account rep, then I’d probably stay, if I were satisfied with the company overall.

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          As a decent person, I would really really care if my account rep were a raging homophobe.
          As a worker, I would really really care if my coworker were a raging homophobe.
          As a manager, I would really really care if my employee were a raging homophobe.

          Honestly, I can’t come up with a scenario where I wouldn’t care.

          1. irritable vowel*

            Agreed. But what is the desired disciplinary response from the manager of this person? To tell him that he can’t post this stuff online, on his personal account, or he’ll be fired? If there isn’t any association with the name of the company, that seems to me to be a free speech violation. The OP knows that this Twitter account belongs to the person she works with because he used to have the company name in the profile. Someone googling his name now would not see that association and the company could not prove in any way that his account was defaming their business.

            1. Leatherwings*

              Well, it’s not a court of law, so they don’t need to “prove” anything. The risk of A. Losing business or B. Creating a negative (even hostile) work environment against marginalized groups by tacitly allowing this speech is enough to justify demanding that he either make this stuff private or stop posting it on the internet lest he be fired.

              It’s really not that much of a stretch that a client would google his name when they find out he’s the account manager (or whatever). Free speech dictates that the government can’t impose restrictions on speech, it has nothing to do with this situation that is all about private actors.

            2. TempestuousTeapot*

              That talk with HR or his manager may have already happened. The company name is no longer on the profile and instead there is now a provocative tagline. I’m weighing in that he was already called to the carpet for the possibility of it reflecting on the company.

            3. Crabby PM*

              “Free speech” has to do if the GOVERNMENT comes in and says “We don’t want you to say that.” As a private company, they can hire anyone for any reason and they can also not work with someone for any reason. And furthermore, free speech doesn’t mean “speech without consequences.” If he feels so strongly then he should find an organization that is more in line with his way of thinking.

      2. LadyCop*

        I understand the dilemma of relating things that could be problematic and someone tying that to wear you work..but seriously we have a society of people who think being a victim is the ultimate goal and who let a few “bad” or “mean” words suddenly allow them to have some made up moral righteousness. Seriously…just because you disagree with it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Well I fundamentally disagree with your characterization of our society, which is a conversation for probably never, but are you really suggesting that opposing gay slurs is moral righteousness?

        2. Mustache Cat*

          …Hate speech is always wrong? Right? I mean, sorry, that just seems self-evident. But judging from your view of society, we’re just never gonna agree on a vast number of things.

          1. TheITCrowd*

            “Hate speech is always wrong? Right? I mean, sorry, that just seems self-evident.”

            Who is the arbiter of what constitutes hate speech? I know this is not a first amendment issue as we are talking about the private sector here, however this is heading down a slippery slope. The first amendment is there precisely to protect what you would call “hate speech”. Speech that you like does not require protection. I would say a vast majority of society would deem Nazi rhetoric “Hate Speech” and despite being Jewish I would not want that speech regulated. The answer to bad ideas is good ideas not shutting down people we disagree with.

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          But when is hate speech ever right?

          The coworker’s tweets aren’t merely expressing an opinion; this is making clear choices using language that has very specific derogatory meaning.

          1. chickabiddy*

            Absolutely. If I saw that a coworker/client/account rep posted a civil and reasoned argument against same-sex marriage, I would probably unfriend her and maybe decline the next lunch date. I would not think it needed to be brought to anyone’s attention. Hate speech and slurs are a different category completely.

            Yes, he has rights under the First Amendment to post pretty much whatever he wants. But freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech.

        4. aebhel*

          Well, by that logic just because I disagree with murder doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I mean, we could get into a debate about absolute vs. relative morality, but in a humanist society, we generally agree that deliberately causing unnecessary pain to people is morally wrong. Using homophobic slurs falls pretty squarely under that heading.

          Do I think it should be illegal? No. If people want to use their Constitutional right to free speech to call people names on Twitter, they’re allowed to do it. But that doesn’t mean I think it should be illegal for them to be fired over it, either. It’s perfectly legal for me to cuss out my boss if I happen across her in the supermarket, but it doesn’t mean I won’t lose my job.

        5. The Strand*

          It doesn’t matter whether he’s fighting to have Betty White win the Presidency, or to abolish the clubbing of baby seals. He could as hilarious as Jon Stewart to those who agree with him politically. If he’s doing it in a threatening manner, it reflects on the company he’s working for, not just on him.

      3. Lyssa*

        Just to clarify, if the coworker’s a Milo Yiannopoulos fan, he’s probably not a raging homophobe. MY is gay, and makes it known quite vividly. He’s done a tour recently that he called the “Dangerous F—- Tour,” so that’s probably the context for the use of the slur referenced.

        I’m not saying that MY doesn’t say objectionable things (he does) or that the coworker hasn’t said objectionable things (or, at minimum, that he’s not said things that are going to look bad to someone not familiar with that context), just that he’s probably not homophobic.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Using gay slurs in a derogatory way (as opposed to trying to reclaim a word, for example) is homophobic. Full stop.

        2. The Strand*

          I’m betting Milo doesn’t have nice things to say about lesbians, though, considering his raging misogyny. But I think it’s helpful that we are discussing why this person is so questionable, because I’m sure some of the audience here hadn’t heard of him – I hadn’t, until he started harassing Leslie Jones.

    2. Noble*

      It definitely becomes a PR issue when someone takes issue with his posts, links him to his company, and creates a viral campaign to make his comments visible enough to harm the rep of the company and get him fired. I’ve seen this happen a multitude of times, even spearheaded by people I am friends with. I don’t really take issue with it. You are welcome to “free speech,” but you are not protected from the consequences. And if the consequence of your hate speech is that people light torches and come for your job, your company might take issue with that. That’s the kind of stain that is remembered, and that stays in google searches and news articles for years to come.

      1. LadyCop*

        Yes. People often misunderstand the First Amendment. Which is why if they lose their job, that’s on them. However, just because people in the word say things you don’t like, doesn’t mean you have to make it your problem either. The reality is more people need backbones and to know when a cause is worth fighting for…and when someone should just be left alone to sleep in the bed they’ve made.

        1. LQ*

          This is interesting, I’d say the sleep in the bed thing would be dealing with the consequences of your words. I’ve never heard that saying interpreted that way.

          1. Mustache Cat*

            I suppose that it could be interpreted as “let them sleep peacefully and don’t disturb them with consequences”, yes

        2. Leatherwings*

          Using gay slurs isn’t bad because it’s not something I like, it’s because it creates and perpetuates hostility and violence against marginalized people.

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          But it does. I’m sorry, but just like when someone makes a racist remark in front of me, I’m going to quickly articulate that I don’t share their opinion and that I don’t want that language used in front of me.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yeah. I was in a coffee shop about a month ago downtown when a small Black Lives Matter protest marched down the street. The guy behind the counter closed the door with a comment that struck me as racist. (Everyone sitting in the cafe was white, and his words included comparing “those people” to “folks like us.”) When my friends and I left a few minutes later, I stopped by the counter and told the guy that I didn’t agree with his comments and I wouldn’t be coming back to the cafe. I don’t generally care about my barista’s politics one way or the other, but I wasn’t okay with that.

            Shame; it was really delicious hot chocolate.

        4. Noble*

          When we allow hate speech to go without consequence we encourage people to get a battery in their back from it and it can turn into actual violence. Your moniker of a “cop” scares me because if this is how you feel fundamentally and if you are in fact a police officer, it paints a pretty vivid picture for me of what kind of cop you are, and that’s really scary to me.

        5. Yup*

          “Things you don’t like” –> don’t try to make it sound like people insulted by homophobic slurs are simply capricious “victims,” because it makes you sound like the co-worker in question.
          Wait, hang on…

    3. CM*

      I would care what my account rep is doing. If their views are diametrically opposed to mine, no big deal, they’re not my BFF or anything. But if they are posting hateful things, I wouldn’t want to deal with them at all. In my experience, somebody who is publicly hateful can turn on you in an instant. These are the guys who catcall you and then curse you out in the next breath when you don’t smile nicely. For evidence, look at the “supplicating millennial babies” line, which sounds like it’s a direct reaction to somebody at the company making a comment about the Twitter feed.

      1. Katie F*

        Yeah, that sounds like the issue has already been raised… it’s likely the reason he took his company off his profile in the first place.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Unfortunately, that kind of tagline is pretty common among trolls regardless. Twitter bios along the lines of “I’m a privileged shitlord who will trigger the shit out of you” are all over the place. It’s part of the troll thing. Targeted trolling.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I love people who do that. If only people IRL were quicker to easily brand themselves “ignore me!”

            1. TempestuousTeapot*

              Where I live we call that the idiot parade (not nice on our parts at all). I do like how some go so full tilt that we can all just stop and watch them move on by.

          1. OhNo*

            As an aside: I’ve never googled my coworkers. Is that common practice in most places? I always assume that some hiring managers will do a search for me as a candidate, but should I be assuming that my coworkers have done it, to?

            1. Serafina*

              Not coworkers, but it’s common to google individuals within companies and companies themselves for any number of reasons – networking, research on an incoming person’s background if you’re going to work with them often, evaluating whether they’ve had feedback on the service/product they provide, the list is endless. Maybe even simple curiosity – it doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is that if the first result that comes up on a search for an employer’s first-line representative is a twitter with his picture full of racial/homophobic/misogynistic/miscellaneous hate speech slurs, that would make a lot of people step back and think, “This is not a person I want to associate/work with, and that his/her employer allows it suggests they think this kind of speech is okay, so that’s not a company I want to work with either.”

            2. FD*

              I’ve done it to try and find a cell phone number that wasn’t in my phone, with people who were sales reps.

            3. SG*

              Oh, at my job we would always Google anyone new. If we were working with a new vendor, trying to find a new vendor, heard someone was working with a company or person- we’d always Google just to get a little more info. 100% I would not use a company if this Twitter was the first thing I saw when I looked up the rep.

            4. Jenna*

              I once had a temp job for a company that dealt with doctors. Part of my job was checking addresses and ther information to make sure that what I entered into the company database was as correct as possible.
              What to guess what step number one was? It was googling their name.
              I was trying to spell check addresses and make sure phone numbers hadn’t gotten scrambled, occasionally spot checking specializations, sometimes having to differentiate between people with similar names, but, Twitter does pop up now.
              If you have a Twitter account under your real name it is part of your online presence and part of your reputation. Just like Facebook, and employers and customers check that, too.
              The best advice for anyone with an online presence under their own name is to not post anything that you don’t want your mom or boss to eventually see, because at some point, someone may send them a link, or possibly a screen grab.
              Of course you can post anything you like that the platform will permit, but, sometimes there are consequences for letting it all hang out, just like your bumper stickers, t-shirt choices, and what you say loudly enough for someone to overhear in your local cafe may affect who wants to be seen with you.

            5. readwitch*

              Almost all of my coworkers are friends on facebook and instagram and twitter with each other – even ones who aren’t super close… so this is easy to pop up that way.

              Plus, in certain offices googling people is basically a networking tool

          2. Roscoe*

            Do people really do this? Ive literally never googled someone looking for their work phone number and then decided to just check out their twitter for shits and giggles. I mean, what are you hoping to accomplish by this? Looking at their linked in for something professional? Looking through their twitter timeline seems a bit much

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Specific field, but any time I need to track down the email of a freelance journalist, the first place I look is any personal web site they may have.

              The second is Twitter. If it’s not in the bio, it’s probably in their reply feed as a response to someone else asking how to pitch them. Most of these are not high-profile reporters, so their twitter feeds are more likely to be personal than professionally-focused.

            2. Kristine*

              I check the social media profiles of anyone I’m going to work with, both internally and externally. I’m invested in developing close relationships with people I work with (my swag vendor sends me a Christmas card every year) and their social media profiles are a decent way of getting some intel.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              He asked why you’d google someone. If their Twitter account comes up when you do, it wouldn’t be strange to look at it out curiosity.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Because maybe I wanted to google my account rep to see what other clients had said about him, or because I’d lost their phone number? And then the twitter pops up as the first result and I’m curious so I read it. Maybe I even mistakenly think it’s a business twitter at first.

        2. Karo*

          Because it’s a public form? If you put something in public, and link it to your real name, you have to assume that someone you know IRL is going to find it.

          1. Catalin*

            Especially when your name is fairly unique and/or there’s an identifying picture! The John Smiths and Jane Joneses of the world have a slightly better chance at anonymity than Rucifer Kale-Hedwington.

            1. blackcat*

              There is a reason why all of my social media is under CommonFirstName CommonLastName.

              All of my professional stuff is under CommonFirstName ExtremelyUnusualMiddleName CommonLastName.

              I consider it to be the best of both worlds.

              1. Bunny*

                It is possible to set many social media accounts so they don’t show up in search engines. I’m a journalist, and I do this. You have to work hard to find my personal accounts. My professional ones are tended very carefully.

        3. Kate*

          Like the OP said, his Twitter feed is the first thing that pops up with a Google search. I often Google search my dentist or vet when I need their phone number or hours or anything else. If the first link to pop up was my dentist’s Twitter feed filled with racist, homophobic drivel, I’d find a new dentist. It doesn’t really matter WHY I was lookin at his feed. It still cost him business. I agree to a point that companies shouldn’t be policing social media use (that letter where someone contacted a letter writer’s company about an online spat comes to mind), but if your social media use impacts their business, I think they have a right to intervene.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*


            I’m forever googling when I need an address or phone number.

            1. JayemGriffin*

              I have been going to the same doctor for two years, and she has moved offices five times. I am constantly googling her to make sure I’m going to the right neighborhood, never mind the right building.

        4. Always Anon*

          Because Twitter suggested them? If you already have a twitter account then you get recommendations of people to follow based on who else you follow, etc.

        5. Alton*

          I’ve googled people and clicked on social media results before if I wanted to confirm if I had the right person or up-to-date info.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yes, and I’ve also Googled professional contacts to find out if I’ve met them before – say, if James Burbank sends me an email and I think, “James Burbank… was that the guy I met at the conference in Phoenix? Or was that guy Tim?” So I’ll go looking for a picture or some other info to figure out if it’s the same person.

            Also, I’m human and sometimes a bit nosy. I Googled a new coworker to remind myself what she looked like before I met up with her at a Starbucks, and when I found pictures of her wedding featured on a well-known wedding blog I admit that I looked through them out of sheer curiosity.

        6. Manders*

          Maybe it’s because I work in a field that often involves handling a company’s social media accounts and being sensitive about their public image, but it would be weird if someone in my field had their full name and company information on twitter and *didn’t* expect their coworkers to find it.

        7. Fog*

          I’m a freelancer, so I have a deliberately public online presence so that potential clients can see exactly the sort of work I do/interests I follow/organizations I work with.

          It’s such a common practice in our circles that it wouldn’t seem at all unusual. I just assumed LW was in a similar environment.

        8. Arjay*

          I googled my mom’s doctor once to find the office address, but I left off the practice name, and just searched for Dr Wakeen Green. Turns out he’s a bodybuilder. With lots and lots of competition photos online of him in a speedo. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it was more than I needed to see of him. :)

        9. Emily*

          Because I’m genuinely curious about people.
          Because I’m doing some opposition research or similar.
          Because their name sounds sooo familiar—have we met?
          Because I wonder who we know in common.
          Because they linked their account in their email signature or similar.
          Because I’m bored.

      2. Artemesia*

        Our financial advisor for years was at the far right end of the political spectrum from us but we got along fine and he was an excellent broker. On the other hand he didn’t use homophobic or racial slurs or engage in more than light political banter with us knowing how differently we viewed the political world.

        I also watch movies with actors whose political views I find repugnant (except Mel Gibson). I think there are lines we can draw here.

    4. Blue Anne*

      The thing is, on the internet, you really are always representing your company.

      In person, you have time off, when you’re definitely not at work and no one is associating you with your company. 16 hours a day (hopefully), you’re not there, you’re not in uniform, you can be a jerk and no one thinks it’s representative of your company or even knows who you work for.

      But if you spend some of those 16 free-to-be-a-jerk hours posting jerk things on the internet, attached to your real name, those things are still there during your work hours. They’re there at 9:30 AM when a prospective client googles the people she’s meeting. They’re there when your colleague looks for your linkedin in the afternoon. Your jerkiness is still totally around, visible, active, and attached to you during work time, when you put them on the internet in such a public way.

      1. Roscoe*

        I just can’t get behind the idea that you are always representing your company. Its just not realistic.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s a broader statement than we need to agree on. The more narrow statement that applies here is that if you’re publicly denigrating whole groups of people and routinely being an asshole to people publicly, your employer gets to be concerned that you’re driving away clients and causing problems internally.

          1. Lucky*

            And if you want to be an asshole on Twitter but don’t want anyone you know in real life to know that you’re that asshole on twitter, you can easily change your handle and photo so that no one knows it’s you. By using your real name, you may as well be walking around town wearing a sandwich board with your offensive tweets written on it.

            1. FD*

              Yeah, exactly. There’s fanfiction on the internet that I’d be a little embarrassed for my employer to read…which is why it’s under a handle that isn’t linked to my real life identity.

            2. Green*

              I go further: personally, I’m also in favor of doxing people (name, not personal phone numbers and parents’ phone numbers and children’s schools) who spew hate speech on the internet/tell people to kill themselves/morally abhorent things beyond disagreeing with me. There are real people on the other end of the comments, and if you’ve left an easy trail on the web, I don’t have a problem with people knowing who sent the comments.

              1. the.kat*

                Why stop with their name? All you’re doing is starting the snowball rolling. You don’t share their personal phone numbers, parents phone numbers, etc., but you’re enabling someone else to do so. If you’re going to doxx people, just own up to it and DO it.

                1. Green*

                  Because while I would encourage their employer to take appropriate actions and don’t mind future employers knowing about their comments now associated on Google with their name, I wouldn’t encourage random people on the internet to call their house or otherwise harass them or their family members.

              2. Emma*

                And right there is my moral line in the sand: you do not dox people. Ever. It’s not your job to police the internet. It’s not your job to impose your morality on others. You say it’s only for people spewing hate speech and telling others to kill themselves – and also other “morally abhorrent” things. How can I possibly trust that you, anonymous internet commenter, and I are on the same page about what those are? (Says the pagan, who has been threatened with doxxing and harassment for being apparently obviously morally wrong by being pagan.)

                Tell me, if someone says something abhorrent to you in person, do you take out a billboard or an ad in the newspaper sharing their identity? And once the name’s out, you really are partially responsible for what others do with it. You don’t share the phone number and home address – great. You’ve just made it super easy for anyone else to find that, though. You’re cool with that?

                And yes, I do think you’re worse than the people you dox. You justify it as they make comments others find hurtful. So, what, you have to go cause more harm? Your reaction is ridiculously disproportionate. Call out the negative comments or whatnot, don’t step up the harassment and hostility.

                And yeah, I’m gay. I’ve been harassed online. I still find the idea of you doxxing someone who tosses out a homophobic slur awful.

                1. Tegdirb*

                  That’s not what doxxing is. Doxxing is doing actual investigative work to link up the names and identities people have worked to keep hidden.

                  If you have your name or picture on your Twitter feed, there’s nothing to doxx. It’s all out there already and your employer could easily stumble on it themselves or find out when your stupidity becomes the next trending hashtag on Twitter.

                  Maybe it’s generational but if you’re stupid enough to have your real life out in the open while also being a hateful bigot, I don’t feel bad for you in the slightest. You’ve pretty much won whatever the Internet version of Darwin Award is.

                2. Emma*

                  Tegdirb – nesting issues, so I’m replying here. I do actually agree that if you’re saying stuff publicly under your real name and picture, that’s not doxxing and you deserve what you get. But that’s not what I was responding to – I was responding to Green, who was saying that they actually are in favor of doxxing people if they say bad things. That’s quite a bit different and I have a serious problem with that.

                  And also, you have no idea how old I am, so don’t talk down to me.

                3. The Strand*

                  I would generally agree with you. If you can figure out on your own, someone who is threatening another person with bodily harm or the like — your first stop should be the authorities, not the Internet hate machine.

          2. Cyrus*

            Agreed, and I’d like to go further and point out that this isn’t just an Internet thing or a modern political correctness thing.

            Fifty years ago, a salesman with a habit of getting drunk and picking fights with people in bars absolutely could be fired for it and probably would. (Depends on the details, but showing up at work with a black eye has never been fashionable.) Saying the N-word in casual conversation may have been acceptable in certain crowds, but even then black people were offended by it and nobody would have been surprised if they took their business elsewhere. The normal attitude towards homosexuality 50 years ago would be considered raging homophobia today, but even then, bringing up the topic or questioning associates about their orientation out of the blue in a business environment would have been considered deeply weird.

            A small number of civil and otherwise reasonable people believe that civil discourse is too stifled or too policed, but there’s just no evidence of it. It’s true that the Internet is a very big bar/showroom/town square, and that the types of people you’re supposed to be polite to has broadened, but how to be polite hasn’t.

        2. SevenSixOne*

          Me either… ESPECIALLY when your real name isn’t tied to it.

          If someone’s an ass while they’re officially representing the company, or if they’re an ass on Facebook using their real name, then go ahead and name and shame. But I think it’s so, so creepy when people doxx anonymous personal accounts, whatever their reason.

          1. my two cents*

            but this wasn’t anonymous – it’s a top google hit when you search their real name. Dude didn’t even try to obscure it.

            So…in the same theme, I can post whatever I like to my own facebook. I will only make public what I am comfortable with strangers knowing about me – no pics of family, no pics with alcohol, etc.

            There used to be a semi-automatic way to post comments ‘via fb login’ on articles or news posts. This, however, would often also include whatever city you’re living in or who your employer was if you had either item set to ‘public’. I didn’t think anything of it, until you’d see the trolling comments stacking up trying to round the anti-whatever lackeys to bring their pitchforks about an individual, calling out their employers and other information.

            1. Blue Anne*

              That really bit me once! My employer found my comments on a post geared towards getting a job at a particular company, because I’d used FB login! I’m still kicking myself.

              They admitted to me that they had found it because they had been googling specifically to see if they could find information about me job-hunting, though. Still not sure how I feel about that.

                1. my two cents*

                  Well, and the other danger there is that whatever article is very recent AND includes your full name, so it’d be at the top of the search.

                  Though, they didn’t haaaave to point it out to you. Makes it slightly (only slightly) less weird that they were at least forthcoming about it.

                2. Blue Anne*

                  It actually wasn’t. They knew I’d outgrown the company, and I had dyed my polychromatic hair back to brown. Dead giveaway that I was interviewing elsewhere!

                  My boss was lovely and thought it was great that I was moving into a more challenging job, but boy was I embarrassed.

          2. Green*

            There are two kinds of doxxing though: there’s hacking/swatting/posting phone numbers and there’s “basic google” because someone used the same handle on Twitter that they use on other social media with their name attached. I have no problem with the latter, in which you are attaching someone’s name (and thus the consequences, social or professional) with their statements. The former is much creepier.

        3. Temperance*

          When you’re announcing in a public forum that you have animosity towards gay people (which is EXACTLY what using a sexuality-based slur is doing), it’s fair game. If you said that out loud at a bar, the people nearby would judge you as being a lowlife scum and maybe punch you in the face or whatever. Putting it on the internet, using your real name, invites you to reap the consequences of being a hateful jerkass loser. Which includes people choosing not to associate with you, and your company choosing not to allow you to be their public face.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            I’ve heard so many (probably apocryphal, but still) stories going back forever about how some guy was being a jerk to the cashier and then it turns out his boss was standing behind him and fired him on the spot… not that I think those are actually true, but it’s worth pointing out that holding people responsible for what they do in their off hours is not a new phenomenon, and those stories have always been told with relish.

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yup. If I overheard my dentist at a bar using loud homophobic language, he wouldn’t be my dentist anymore. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t at his office or that he didn’t know any of his patients could hear him.

            I don’t have to agree with him on everything – if I overheard him saying he’s going to vote for [candidate I am definitely not going to vote for], then I would still be fine with him caring for my teeth. But hate speech crosses a line for me.

        4. Dynamic Beige*

          It’s not that you are always representing your company… it’s that what you do in your private time is no longer really private, unless you take steps to ensure that it is.

          You can stand on the street corner and rage about how X, Y and Z are bad and anyone who does those things is going straight to Hell… and no one at your company is going to know or care. Until someone records you and puts it up on the internet. You can get drunk off your ass at home and no one will find out until someone takes a picture or video of you and puts it on the internet. You can be as much of a bigot/homophobe/misogynist/misandrist/whatever as much as you like… but if you publish that on the internet under your own true name, someone is going to find it and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for putting it there. You can be rude to people on the subway, wait staff, whoever, but you don’t know who is going to record it or will make a post about how little you tipped them later.

          This isn’t new. Ask anyone who has been charged or convicted of a crime who has later been exonerated or had the charges dropped — that follows them around. Ask anyone who has had rumours spread about them. Or someone whose ex has put their photos up on a revenge porn site. Or people who posted things on their Facebook when they were young and stupid only to find that they didn’t get accepted to colleges or mysteriously can’t get a job. Up here, there was a situation where a guy harassed a female reporter and it was caught on broadcast. He no longer has his six-figure job with a government agency. I bet he’s had a very hard time finding new employment.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            You can stand on the street corner and rage about how X, Y and Z are bad and anyone who does those things is going straight to Hell… and no one at your company is going to know or care.

            I would argue that when you do so, you’re taking the risk that someone at your company is going to be walking by while you’re doing your ranting. And if you yell at them that they’re going straight to hell… they are probably gonna look at you funny on Monday morning.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              I meant it as an example of how someone may have things they do not want on the Internet out there that people can Google and find. It’s also something hateful assholes do. I was watching a documentary about how hard it is to get a law passed to prohibit it and how these women had lost a lot due to the actions taken against them by their exes (the doc only profiled women). I can imagine that if that was something that happened to a person, they might have to explain that to wherever they are going to apply for a job at because it might come up.

        5. Jaguar*

          I can’t get behind that idea either. However, if you’re going to take socially unpopular decisions and broadcast them, you need to be willing to deal with the consequences of them. Would you have a problem with a company not hiring a job applicant when that stuff turns up? Doesn’t the same reason apply to firing them?

          I’m of two minds on this. I think there is a very real movement on the left (and I consider myself extremely left-wing) to silence speech and I think it’s despicable, fascist, and anti-progressive. On the other hand, it’s far too easy for people to falsely claim free speech to mean freedom from responsibility of their speech. Firing a guy for publicly being an asshole is a pretty reasonable consequence of publicly being an asshole. It’s not a representation of the company issue, it’s an employers should have the right to stop employing assholes issue.

          1. Roscoe*

            That’s a great point, and I’m on the fence about it. I suppose I wouldn’t have a problem with someone not being hired based on whats online, because you don’t know them. I have a different opinion of firing an otherwise fine employee, because you don’t like their social media. Its like dating in a way. I can find stupid reasons to not date someone, but once I’m dating them, those same stupid reasons wouldn’t make me break up with them.

          2. Sunshine*

            “Firing a guy for publicly being an asshole is a pretty reasonable consequence of publicly being an asshole.”

            This this this. We are all absolutely free to say whatever the hell we want, whenever and to whomever. But you don’t get to use “free speech” as a pass for any consequences – for yourself or your company. Most customers who choose to leave a business won’t tell them why. They just disappear, the business suffers, and management may not even know why.

        6. Anonyliz*

          Honestly, I think it is naïve to assume that your company doesn’t care about your social media presence (especially when it is public). For instance, my husband who works in journalism can and will never post any political views online (it is an offense which journalists can be fired for). I do not put any political affiliations, photos of me with a drink in my hand, or anything I would be uncomfortable with a parent or administrator seeing on my private or public social media (I am a teacher). Freedom of speech is great but if you wouldn’t feel comfortable with a client knowing something about you, I wouldn’t put it online. People can and do get fired for what they put on social media all the time. It is the modern day equivalent of taking out a page in the newspaper

        7. Tegdirb*

          Which is fair and why my Twitter doesn’t have my company name, real name, or RL pictures on it anywhere.

          Also, not being a fan of “Nero” it’s not full of “alt-right” nonsense. Maybe the LW’s co-worker is different from most Nero fanboys but a lot of them drop the n-word and f-word with alarming frequency and make rape jokes like they’re nothing. It’s really nasty.

      2. Purest Green*

        This is an interesting perspective and I appreciate it. I’m still on the fence with this one because while I think hate speech is not OK and I’d love to see that shut down, I also love it when my employer doesn’t tell me how to behave during non-work hours.

        In this particular circumstance, the guy is practically asking for trouble by using his real name and previously listing his employer on a profile to make hateful comments. He’d be stupid to assume there would never be consequences for doing that.

        1. misspiggy*

          You value not being told by your employer what to do in work hours; so would it be fair to say that your job isn’t client-facing, or you don’t work for an organisation that tries to project its values through its staff? Which is entirely fine. But this guy has a client-facing job, so his employer will expect him not to undermine their image. My career has been nonprofits which prohibit employees from doing quite a lot of things in their private lives which could bring the organisation into disrepute, and I’m completely happy with that. This guy broke a tacit deal with his employer.

          1. Roscoe*

            I don’t know. I’m in a client facing job, and I’d hate my company telling me what I can and can’t put on twitter. It wasn’t in my employee handbook, and I think it would suck for it to do it. At the same time, my name is common enough where I probably wouldn’t come up immediately on FB or Twitter, and I don’t put anything questionble on linkedin

    5. AD*

      It’s not about YOU being comfortable with someone doing this, rather that a lot of companies and organizations would not want one of their client-facing employees spouting hate speech or similar language online, in an easily-searchable forum. Which, methinks, is not a bad thing.

    6. Temperance*

      It’s absolutely relevant information to me to know whether businesses I patronize hire people that are loathsome and hateful towards the LGBT community. If I am choosing where to direct my business, or who to work with, I’m going to want to work with the person who is smart enough and decent enough to know that you shouldn’t use words like that to describe people.

      If someone in a client-facing role is seriously stupid enough to use slurs on a public forum, with their real name, I consider it fair game.

    7. Honeybee*

      I respect that people have the right to say whatever they want to say. That doesn’t mean that I have to work alongside them or give them a job, though. And making political statements I disagree with is different from using homophobic slurs and deliberately taunting and shaming people.

      1. my two cents*

        Dude does have the ‘right’ to spew whatever vitriol he wants, and his employer has the option of canning his butt for being a hateful d-bag in a public forum.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Well, he can sue them for anything – he could sue them for failing to provide Splenda by the coffee maker – but he won’t win. The constitution prevents him being arrested for his Twitter account, but it doesn’t protect his job. It’s not illegal for an employer to fire someone for public hate speech. “Troll” is not a protected class.

            1. LavaLamp*

              Can’t believe the term “dooced” has fallen out of the language so soon… he certainly can.

    8. Grey*

      No one would be telling him what he can or can’t post. They’d be telling him where he can or can’t work.

      Employees are free to post whatever they’d like. Employers are free to hire/fire whoever they’d like. You can’t take away one freedom to protect another.

    9. AW*

      If someone decides to look him up on twitter, thats on them.

      No, it’s not. We’re not talking about someone going to an adult web site and complaining about nudity. As poorly enforced as they are, Twitter’s Terms of Service state that hate speech isn’t allowed. So it’s not “on” anyone who goes to Twitter and ends up seeing it because it’s not supposed to be there. It’s on the person posting it for breaking the ToS.

      1. BRR*

        Agreed. And it’s not looking for dirt on the employee, it’s the first thing that pops up.

      2. OhNo*

        You know, that’s a good point. I wonder if it would be worth the OP’s time to report the tweets containing offensive language. At least then if the company declines to do anything, some of the most problematic offenses might be removed.

        (Although I’d wait until the company has clearly passed on taking any action, since it would stink for them to go looking for evidence after Twitter had removed it already.)

        1. Green*

          Twitter leaves hate speech up. I think Milo might be the only person they’ve taken down. :)

          1. Jenna*

            It sometimes depends on who you target. Milo thought he was punching down, and it turned out his target had more friends than he did.

    10. BRR*

      I get what you’re saying but it’s not about his right to say it, it’s about consequences for what he says. A lot of people would see someone who says these things as someone they wouldn’t want to do business with. Even if you don’t personally care it should be acknowledged that a lot of people do. And I am with you that people aren’t always representing their company but in this specific situation when you’re in a client facing position, it can mean that you are representing your company a lot more than in other positions.

    11. Nervous Accountant*

      As a Muslim woman, I really would care if someone I work for/with/client of was raging misogynist and/or Islamophobe/racist.

    12. Zoe*

      As someone who works in corporate PR, employees can and do get fired for posting things on personal social media accounts. It is a HUGE reputation liability, especially if the company is high-profile and/or consumer-facing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re violating an official social media policy or whether you put the company name in your profile — if it’s bad enough, you’ll get terminated or at least talked to.

    13. Tegdirb*

      Even with the name removed, the company or LinkedIn may still come up in google searches. Especially if he, like many Twitter idiots, uses his real name or photo.

      At which point, the dude may get outed by someone on Twitter before the co-worker does anything.

  2. Adlib*

    I’ve basically found that Twitter is a cesspool anyway in general. (I’m still on it though, but I keep that in mind always.)

    1. Katie F*

      I have found the opposite – Facebook taught me that many people I love in real life believe some truly terrible things and Twitter helped me find strangers who are awesome.

      1. SL #2*

        Many of my friends, and lots of other people, use Twitter for smart and thoughtful commentary on political events. My “friends” on Facebook repost garbage memes and go on racist/ageist/ableist rants. With Twitter, it tends to be “what community do you consider yourself part of” because there’s garbage everywhere, but there’s also great people there. All Facebook has really done is made me realize some people’s ignorance.

        1. Katie F*

          Yeah, you never realize how many people in your life are just raging racists/ageists until you look at FB and see twelve variations on whatever Racist Meme of the Week or Blame Millenials For Everything “viral post” is making the rounds.

          I also never realized how many people I knew that have no idea how to Google something to see if it’s real BEFORE reposting it everywhere.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Oh my god, yes. Including people who are usually savvy and/or educated. People don’t think to check the source, the date, or Google.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Right. Where’s that fact checker from yesterday? Maybe there’s a new job for her

          2. Honeybee*

            Or do basic triage? I don’t have to Google to figure out that [insert random nonprofit here] is not going to give little Johnny $2 million if just 100,000 people repost some unrelated viral post on their Facebook pages.

            1. Katie F*

              Oh god yes.

              My boss at work was just talking about this today, how he hates all those “Like if you’re a Christian, share if you love Jesus! Type ‘Amen’ to show you’re praying for little Chrissy with cancer and help Jesus heal her!”

              Boss: Now I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how Jesus works.

          3. robynwithay*

            “I also never realized how many people I knew that have no idea how to Google something to see if it’s real BEFORE reposting it everywhere.”

            DEAR GOD. My Facebook Newsfeed. Is all of this. It takes all of my self-control to not correct every single one of them.

            1. Katie F*

              It’s not worth it, because if you do, you receive The Kiss of Death, otherwise known as “Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”

              Because apparently FB is the place where people don’t know that facts and opinions are two entirely separate concepts.

              1. Sunshine*

                Ugh. Sometimes it pains me to keep scrolling, but I weigh against the inevitable comment wars that time don’t have time for.

          4. Jinx*

            I’ve learned to love the “Unfollow” button. It hides the casual posts of certain in-laws without unfriending and the resulting drama. Because no, I don’t want to read your hundredth post about “how dare kids these days ask for an increase in the minimum wage bootstraps gumption blah blah”. I’m just here for the cat pictures and my friends’ yarn blog.

          5. fposte*

            What is it with the internet and ageism, anyway? Even progressives are weirdly steeped in it.

          6. AW*

            Don’t forget the sexist memes!

            G-d, it’s so bad. I’ve been avoiding it lately because a couple of my relatives have clearly lost their minds.

            1. Blue Anne*

              I made facebook friends with the roommate of a guy I’m dating.

              That… was a mistake. So many sexist memes.

          7. mazzy*

            Really? Haven’t had that. I suspect some relatives drunk post though. My cousin write long ranty posts about how great motherhood is, usually late at night. People just don’t write three paragraphs on how there child is a walking miracle every week. I’ve contemplated saying something but she’s married into the family, not a blood relative, so I don’t feel I can.

          8. Mander*

            I really wish Facebook had an option to “check this on Snopes before sharing”. Not that they are infallible but man, it would help me solve the dilemma of whether or not to quit following my aunt who is constantly posting ridiculous conspiracy garbage.

        2. Random Lurker*

          I did a Facebook friend purge earlier this year. I deleted everyone who was toxic. If they were family (and many of them were), I just hid their crap from my feed. It was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. I highly recommend it.

          1. SL #2*

            I spent so. much. time. hiding people’s posts and un-friending people during the Democratic primary. It was fantastic. I was basically doing a dance of glee every time I had to.

    2. Elizabeth*

      There are lots of awful parts of the internet (which means there are lots of awful parts of Twitter) but if you curate your feeds well enough, it’s easy enough to avoid people who post like that (though of course good curation won’t eliminate anyone who might come into your mentions).

    3. Noble*

      Twitter personally has changed my life. It has brought incredible people into my life (including my S/O) and has taught me how to express feelings I’ve had when I couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to say. It strengthened my views on social issues, has allowed me to become a better advocate for social change, and has helped me during some of my darkest times by being able to discuss what I was going through or to just know that I wasn’t alone.

      That being said, there is a LOT of bad on there too, but I’ve become a better advocate for defending myself and beliefs using clear language and I’ve gotten really good at using that BLOCK button, haha. I think it really depends what “part” of twitter you belong to. The community as a whole on twitter that I’ve found my self a part of is generally incredible.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      There are parts of every social media site that’s a cesspool. I’ll say that of Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and whatever else. The best thing to do is just avoid the people, blogs, accounts, etc. who are part of that cesspool.

    5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This is why I basically only follow astronauts. They post pictures of the earth from space and videos about how to wash your hair in microgravity. It’s all very civil.

  3. Leatherwings*

    This is really great advice. I think it’s well-balanced and addresses common concerns people have over personal speech.
    I totally agree that there’s a difference between unpopular opinions and bigotry/hate speech. Using a gay slur on a public facing account where a client can see it isn’t something most companies want, and I hope OP does say something and that someone at the company handles the situation.

  4. Jeanne*

    I think the concerns are valid about whether companies can censor speech about important issues. In this case, the difference is the slurs. The coworker isn’t debating issues. He’s insulting groups of people. So the company may want to ask him to stop it.

    1. CMT*

      What do you mean? Private companies are not the government, so they can ask employees to stop any kind of speech they want to. The word “censor” gets thrown around a lot in these kinds of discussions and is meant to invoke the protections of the First Amendment, but really that rarely applies. Speech can have consequences.

      1. CMT*

        Oh, I just read Alison’s answer and I see what you’re talking about. I was thinking more along the lines of people who complain that Twitter is “censoring” Milo and things like that. But for the most part, I do think that most people who complain about censorship are just complaining about having to face the consequences for what they’re saying.

    2. Blue Anne*

      The company wouldn’t be saying he CAN’T post those things. They’d be saying that if he does, it may have repercussions for his job.

      Just like anywhere else. Anyone is free to say whatever jerky crud they want, and I’m free to treat them like a jerk because of it.

    3. mags*

      The company is not censoring speech. He is still perfectly free to say everything he already is. The company is just as free to say that goes against what they stand for, and they don’t want someone like that to work for them. Someone facing consequences for their hate speech isn’t censorship. At all.

      1. Jessen*

        The worry for a lot of us is, where’s the line. Say someone like me who is pro-life – not a popular opinion in my field. Sure I’m not going around calling people who don’t agree with me names, but there’s a legit worry that if I, say, have a twitter feed where I express pro-life views, there are people who would call me bigoted and misogynistic and say I shouldn’t have a job. And it doesn’t seem right that I might have a harder time finding work in my field (which is unrelated to abortion) because most people in my area are pro-choice.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          The answer to that is to not slap your full name all over cyberspace and post everything publicly.

          1. Jessen*

            Think about what that means. That also means, say, no public activism. No going to protests, because you might end up on media and you could be fired for it. If you want to express your belief, be sure to hide your identity at all times! That’s a good recipe for saying “you must agree with the political stances your employer agrees with, or risk being fired.” That may be legal, but it’s not right.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              It means think about your priorities. If your biggest priority is not to get fired for your beliefs no matter what, then yes, going to protests or publicly expressing those beliefs is probably not a good choice. You set your risk tolerance.

              1. Jessen*

                I think if, say, my coworker Jane goes to pro-choice rallies and publicly posts her pro-choice arguments on her public page, and doesn’t have to worry about her job, but if I have to worry about my job for doing the same thing only on the opposite side, something’s gone seriously wrong.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  As you’ve pointed out, you work in an unusually leftist environment where one view is much more accepted than the other. That, again, is part of your personal risk management. If you worked for, say, a conservative church, Jane would probably be the one having to keep a tight lid on things while you wouldn’t.

                2. Jessen*

                  That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s right that it should be the case. Just because one view is more common than the other doesn’t mean one side should risk firing for what they do on their own time with it, while the other can’t. And I’d say the same thing if the employer was conservative and the employee was liberal – as long as they’re expressing their dissent reasonably, they shouldn’t risk being fired merely for having a contrary political opinion. (Churches and organizations for specific causes are a little different, so I won’t go there.)

                  It may be the case, but I think that being the case means something’s gone wrong somewhere with how we view employment.

                3. Murphy*

                  I think the difference is whether or not you’re calling women who have had an abortion a filthy wh*re who should burn in hell and engaging in hate speech vs. exercising your democratic right to oppose specific policies.

                  The first is never ok, the other should be allowed and not threaten your livelihood (even if I don’t agree with your personal stance). Dude referenced in the letter is squarely in the first camp.

                4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  I feel like you’ve drifted a bit from asking ‘where is the line’ to talking about people who are definitely being reasonable in supporting their views. If someone is being reasonable and respectful in supporting their chosen views, then no, they shouldn’t suffer work repercussions in most circumstances.

                  But “reasonable” tends to have a lot to do with “not being a jerk to other people.” So, for instance, if you replicated the speech on how women asking for birth control must all be sluts, then you’re not being reasonable, and your company has a good reason to take an interest.

                  Also, as a note, nothing has “gone” wrong in that regard. It has always been this way. You could always be fired for things your boss just didn’t like. If anything, we’re working our way toward narrowing that field.

                5. Aunt Vixen*

                  I have a side job as a musician with a church to which I do not (and would not) belong. Many, I’d even say most, of the individuals I know there are lovely people with whom I have no quarrel. I don’t even particularly have a problem with the extremely general basis of the church’s message (which is, like all true religious organizations, “Don’t be a dick.”) I don’t agree with their specific teachings and I certainly don’t agree with this particular parish’s politics, but I don’t have to in order to do the extremely limited work I do for them.

                  Recently we had to be converted from independent contractors to occasional employees because reasons. The employment application, which I had to fill in as a formality, had some stuff in it about how employees who are members of the church would be expected to follow and model church teachings in their daily lives, and employees who are not members would be expected not to act in ways that would embarrass the church (there might have been some other language in there to that effect as well; I don’t really remember). I called the guy we were invited to call with questions and said “Listen, I appreciate the position you’re in, but I’m not going to change my political views or where I make my donations or anything like that just because you wish I would.” And he said “Oh, my goodness, no, that’s not what we mean at all.” Basically I shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) make a particular point of saying This Particular Church Is Evil And Bad, but I’m going to vote the way I’m going to vote (which of course is a secret ballot) and I’m going to sign the things I’m going to sign (which does involve my full name and I don’t mind if it becomes a matter of record because that’s the point), and I suppose if some congregant said “Hang on, you’ve got a what kind of heathen up in the choir loft?” there might come a point where the church had to choose between a faithful member and an employee, but that isn’t likely to happen because most people, even when they do disagree with your politics, are not actually jerks.

                  (And if it did come to that, and they told me I’d have to change my ways or quit the job, I’d quit the job. That’s what the Countess is talking about upthread a bit about personal risk management.)

                6. Aunt Vixen*

                  Ha, “converted” – I didn’t realize the pun was even there. We had to have our status modified from independent contractors to occasional employees. Apologies for the confusion.

                1. Crabby PM*

                  If Jessen is going to be a jerk to people on the internet, Jessen gets to deal with the consequences. There are plenty of pro-life people on the Internet who manage to get their point across without calling people horrible names. If he’s one of the latter, too bad.

                2. Jessen*

                  CrabbyPM, you missed my point. My point is, even without being a jerk, there’s a real chance of people saying “I’m offended by Jessen’s views and she shouldn’t have a job.” Where do we draw the line?

          2. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, that’s just really not that hard. I am on Facebook and Twitter and neither comes up when you google my full name.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Delightfully, my full name happens to also be the name of at least one business with a big social media presence and several streets on which there are many houses for sale. Google my full name and you get to page 3 before you actually get me. I love it.

        2. Nervous Accountant*

          I hear ya…I’ considered myself pro choice since I was in HS, but after a few losses, it’s hard for me to really take a solid approach….I don’t talk about this in public forums though. In theory I still support choice. BUT I think it depends on the situation, and really how you express those views. I think you can be pro life w/o insulting or demeaning the other view ya know?

          1. Jessen*

            No I’d agree with you. But I’m in an extremely liberal field in academia, and I do know people who would say things like “being pro-life is misogynistic and you shouldn’t be hired if you’re a misogynist.” Or more commonly, “If you oppose gay marriage, you shouldn’t have a job because you might have to work with gay students.” It does happen.

            1. Mags*

              It’s not that you don’t have a right to a job. It’s that your views may be expressly different than your employers and they don’t want you representing them.
              If you don’t believe your gay students are equal to, and deserve the same rights as your heterosexual students than I can understand why they suggest you shouldn’t be working there. It has nothing to do with saying you shouldn’t have a job because you aren’t liberal, and everything to do with your viewpoint not being responsible for THAT profession.
              Having a different favorite sport than your company’s owner is a different viewpoint. Voting for Cruz instead if Trump or Bernie instead of Clinton is a difference of opinion. The difference with your scenarios is that you are actively trying to take rights away from a group of people. Being anti-choice and anti-equality aren’t differences of opinion, they are civil rights issues. And they are big enough issues to cause repercussions for companies.

              1. Jessen*

                I’m curious if you’d say the same thing from the other side. After all, from the pro-life side, being pro-choice is taking a pretty big right away from someone. Would an employer have the right to say that, for example, a pro-choice person shouldn’t be working with children, or in a position where they might have to deal with pregnant women?

            2. Chalupa Batman*

              Hmmm. Fellow academic employee, and this is tricky. In my mind, those things are similar, but not quite similar enough. For most people who don’t work in a directly related field, their pro life/pro choice views aren’t part of their everyday experience. They may have a history that informs those views, but it only becomes public information if they choose for it to be. Being gay is something that impacts a person’s day to day experience and can’t be compartmentalized completely. (I have a friend who was told being gay wasn’t as bad as being a racial minority because he can “just hide it.” He took offense in a big way, and as a racial minority myself, I was embarrassed he even had to entertain that ridiculousness from someone implying she was speaking on “our” behalf.) It is part of their identity as a human being. Not even all gay people support gay marriage, which makes the comparison more valid, but yeah, overall I’d say if you work with students, you have a responsibility to respect the range of student experiences in any public forum. That doesn’t mean hiding all of your beliefs or views, but it does mean being deliberate in how you express them. Students don’t discriminate on whether I was in work mode or not when they see something I said. If they feel I’ve disrespected them, I can’t do my job effectively. I take responsibility for a good faith effort to show them respect even in non-work forums. I don’t think I’m disagreeing with Jessen exactly, but I can’t say I fully agree either. If a person’s social media presence demonstrates opinions that may make a student perceive them as an unsafe person to interact with, I would absolutely consider that a work problem.

              1. Jessen*

                The trouble is a lot of things may make someone perceive them as an unsafe person – pretty much any publicly expressed view, to be honest. So for example, I know some Christian students who would perceive an outspoken atheist professor, or an openly gay professor, as someone who would be an unsafe person to interact with. I know some students would be uncomfortable knowing that I’m Catholic, even if they know nothing else about my personal views. At some point we’ve got to draw the line and say “part of life is dealing with people with different views, even views that make you uncomfortable.”

                1. Vendrus*

                  If someone is behaving inappropriately – such as bringing up personal political views in areas that they are not relevant to and may cause conflict – then that needs to be dealt with by a supervisor of some sort. It doesn’t matter whether they are ‘left wing’ or ‘right wing’ views etc, there is a time and a place for these things and education is not one of them. I’d suggest that’s why Chalupa Batman (what a name) went for generic terms, because it’s a generic issue.

                  There’s a lot of posts on AAM about exactly these kinds of things!

                2. Jessen*

                  Vendrus, the point here is more about what people do in their own time. So it’s not about people bringing up political views at work – it’s about the political views people have on their own website, or their own twitter account, or whatever. The fact is with the internet it’s a lot easier for people to find out what people do when they’re not at work, and we have to negotiate what happens when someone disagrees with them.

        3. Kelly L.*

          Again, expressing a political opinion in civilized terms is different from using slurs. I would disagree with your employer if they fired you for being pro-life. I would be less sympathetic if you’d used a slur for the women who have them.

        4. Jeanne*

          It is very difficult to tell where the line is. And I hesitate with companies telling employees what they can say. In this case, what swayed me was clients. If the company loses clients, that’s a big problem and affects your job. But in my old job as a nobody in a cubicle looking at data, I would hope to have less restrictions.

    4. Green*

      But even separate from insulting groups of people, there are lots of things I can’t/don’t say on social media. I’ll cuss up a storm, but I won’t discuss *hot topic in my industry* because my hot take on my industry might be news while “high ranking employee of X industry says *****” is probably not (unless ***** is a racial slur or otherwise hate speech).

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this.

        Example: I have serious ethical issues with some of the business clients whose disputes I handle. Generally speaking, these issues don’t actually impact how I handle their cases, because I have just as many issues (the same issues, really) with their customers who are initiating the disputes. So I basically dislike everyone involved equally. However, if I got up on my FB which is attached to my real name and started blasting about how XYZ Inc is a shady scammy unclass act that enables people to break the law, it would be totally understandable that my company would want Serious Words with me, because a representative of XYZ Inc would not want me handling their dispute cases. So I save that for my locked-down no-real-names-here social media, and even then I don’t use names, just “ugh, these guys.”

  5. Katie F*

    Yeah, this is definitely serious enough to be brought up. At first I wasn’t thinking ‘yes’, because I don’t think anyone should be punished at work for holding certain political viewpoints, even those I find repugnant – just block and move on. But the part where he is using hate speech that is specifically homophobic in nature could really open your company up to serious issues later on. I think it’s worth bringing this up. Even if all he does is make his twitter account ‘protected’.

    Companies have been the target of serious retribution because of things their employees said online under their personal names, so it’s worth it to make them aware of this issue – this isn’t just about his politics being different, this is him using homophobic hate speech when he is employed in a position that means his name is widely available to clients – whoever he meets with/speaks with.

    1. Joseph*

      Oh yeah. The 1995-era CRT is awesome irony for a 2016-era “some bro is trolling on Twitter” problem.

  6. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I wonder how long it is until a client pulls their business over this guy’s hateful speech, if it hasn’t happened already. If my company was losing business over this guy, I’d want to know about it.

  7. neverjaunty*

    I was more concerned at the non-Twitter things in the OP’s letter – that this guy’s personality got him transferred from another department (meaning her employer prefers turkey-shuffling to actual management) and that he clearly isn’t receptive to criticism of any sort. Those are issues all by themselves and much more likely to affect the OP than this guy being a glassbowl on Twitter.

    1. Honeybee*

      I was thinking the same thing. If this employee’s behavior is bad enough that it is turning off coworkers, why would the solution be to shuffle him to another department where he can annoy another set of coworkers rather than simply firing him? The combination of the online behavior and the hints about his offline, actual workplace behavior makes me think he’s just a bad hire all around.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes. And worse, that this is a company that doesn’t want to deal with bad hires appropriately.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I wouldn’t write off a whole company based on that. It could be just one bad manager.

          1. moss*

            I would… if it was coming down to a choice between two vendors who were pretty much equal. Something like this would cause me to choose a different vendor. In this competitive economy, a small thing can push a decision either way. It’s very important.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I was thinking from OP’s perspective as an employee, though – not from the outside perspective of a vendor. It seems to me like it probably takes more than one bad manager to actually transfer somebody between departments in order to address behavioral problems.

      2. Jeanne*

        He may have caused them to lose good employees in the first department because of his behavior. He probably didn’t do his job well. So just transfer him so you lose more good employees. I don’t understand the thought process.

  8. Gwen*

    I would definitely bring this up. Especially since it’s so easy to make an account that has no connection to your real name if you want to spew hateful crap (not that I approve of the spewing in general, but). This guy can continue his trolling under the username “superjerk001” all he wants, but attaching it to his real name is attaching it to his real life which includes his job.

    1. Blue Anne*


      I talk about being queer and poly on my twitter. I don’t want employers to see that. So it’s not under my name. It doesn’t come up when you google me. It’s a screen name I use a lot elsewhere, so friends can find it easily, but if you’re a prospective employer you won’t see it.

      It’s not hard.

      1. tink*

        I agree with this. If you must be a nasty jerk (or if you talk about things that aren’t the business of your employer/potential employers) then you can either take pains to not associate your account with anything in your real life (including pictures of your face/where you live/etc.), or you can lock your account so that only people you approve can see what you’re posting.

        If you’re spewing hateful words on a twitter account that uses your real name and is attached to your linked in, you’re basically shouting those things into the professional void. You can say what you want, but your employer can also show you the door for hurting their reputation and costing them business, and future employers can use that in consideration of whether they want to hire you.

      2. Natalie*

        I basically only use Facebook and I have the privacy settings locked as much as possible, and I still changed my name when I was job-hunting. Because why not?

      3. Amy G. Golly*

        I definitely tweet (and reply on this site!) under a pseudonym to keep my personal life and my professional life separate. Even if I am 100% willing to own everything I say here and on my Twitter (and I am!), I still recognize that mixing After Hours Amy with Public Librarian Amy is not always appropriate.

        But I just wanted to draw a line between “saying work-inappropriate things” and “being queer and poly”. There is nothing work inappropriate about being queer or poly! You should absolutely be able to be open about that at work, and it legitimately sucks if you can’t be. (I’m sure you know that, and I’m not telling you how about to feel about your own identity: just saying it for the benefit of anyone else reading!)

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah…. I’d really like to be. Usually, when I’ve been in a workplace for a few months, I’m comfortable with it when the bisexuality comes up. But I’ve always stayed in the poly closet at work, even when I lived in super-liberal Scotland, and… well, now I live in the Midwest. So…

          It sucks. :(

  9. Noble*

    I think it’s important to remember there is a difference between “censoring” someone’s speech and someone receiving the “consequences” of their actions. They’re totally different things and important to remember in conversations involving topics like this.

    1. Roscoe*

      But the problem is that it could just be different ideologies. In this case, the guy is using slurs, so I mostly agree with you. But in general, its more complex. For example, someone could have strong religious beliefs and be against gay marriage. Not slurring gay people, but just spouting what their religion taught them about what “marriage is”. If the company is super liberal, I don’t think they should be able to say “take that down, we don’t agree”.

      1. Noble*

        There is still a difference in how things are said. You can have a different ideology and still respect people and peoples humanity. I think there is a major difference here. You can believe marriage between two people of the same sex is wrong, without slurring members of that community and being hateful. You can believe that a certain candidate (I admit I shudder as I write this) will make a better POTUS without using words or terms that are full of hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia etc. You don’t have to resort to inflammatory statements to make points, especially if you actually care about presenting your points or encourage thoughtful and productive discourse.

        And as Alison pointed out, that doesn’t reflect the situation in this particular letter.

      2. mags*

        But that “different ideology” is still segregating groups of people. Just because someone says they are doing it because of their religion shouldn’t change anything. If you are standing for something your company finds abhorrent or simply something they think will give them bad press, they have every right to ask you to remove it or terminate you.

        Something else in the LW’s case. It also causes workplace issues. Who wants to work next to a Twitter troll, let alone a homophobic one? Even if I’m not personally offended by their diatribe it would still make me uncomfortable interacting with someone like that.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        Not slurring gay people, but just spouting what their religion taught them about what “marriage is”. If the company is super liberal, I don’t think they should be able to say “take that down, we don’t agree”.

        That’s not this situation, but in the hypothetical you’re proposing, I could see how they should be able to do that, depending on the work the company does. Is it a shelter for runaway / kicked out LGBT teens? It is a non-profit doing advocacy work for the LGBT community? Is it a school that has a lot of gay parents (or any openly gay parents)? If I worked at one of those places and had an employee whose anti-gay Twitter account was obviously tied to his real name and our company/org, I’d would definitely say to take it down.

        1. Katie F*

          A shelter for runaway/kicked-out LGBT teens would definitely want to be aware of something like that, too – since even if we’re talking about the sweetest, gentlest variation on “I don’t believe this intrinsic part of your identity that has caused your family-of-origin to utterly reject you is acceptable” is going to be one more thing tearing them apart. I’d want to know, if I ran a shelter like that, if there was a chance the kids I’m working hard to save were interacting/dealing with someone who is undoing all that work.

        2. LQ*

          I worked for a nonprofit that was primarily in a black neighborhood. If I’d said ANYTHING even remotely racist online or anywhere, I hope they’d have fired me faster than I could pack my stuff. Because it was so incredibly integral to the mission of the org and the history of it too. So yeah, I think it does matter.

      4. Seven of Nine*

        This. There’s “you don’t get to talk that way about another human being” and “you don’t get to have an opinion about social issues.” Which I think Alison pointed out well in her article!

      5. Nonny Nee*

        They could, however, say “these are not the values that we want people to see and associate with our company”. That’s what a business does in these situations, typically. That’s a consequence of an action, not censorship.

      6. BRR*

        It definitely could just be about different ideologies but people don’t always get a free pass to say whatever they want. There are customers that would also approve of what this guy posts but it’s the company that decides whether or not they want one of their employees to be publicly posting this ideology. Whether or not you agree with what’s being said, it should be known by everybody that this type of material is controversial.

      7. my two cents*

        If the company is super liberal, why is the ultra-conservative choosing to work there and represent the company in the first place?

        The roles where this kind of stuff matters aren’t just ‘any job they could get’. These are careers that interface with clients/customers/employees/etc where the employee is acting as an agent of the company by first AND last name. If you don’t align with a company’s guiding value or mission statement, that’s a workplace culture miss-match and no one will be happy that you’re working there.

        1. Roscoe*

          Well here is the thing. I know some pretty liberal people that also have strong religious views (those people do exist). So I think you can work for an org that is liberal in some ways without it meaning you have to agree with every single thing they stand for

          1. my two cents*

            But even then, one is at least semi-aligned with the company’s message/mission/etc. Your same lib/religious employee example may be 100% on board working for Feeding America, but wouldn’t ever even consider applying at Planned Parenthood. Right?

            But really…this employer needs an employee in this role to establish lasting relationships with customers, and possibly sign-on new clients. It is reasonable for the employer to then select individuals who do not then also publicly engage in hateful, anti-social or alienating behaviors – which directly contradicts relationship building, regardless of what topic they’re being PUBLICLY unpleasant about.

      8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Hm, I’d be pretty concerned about someone saying “You people who don’t follow my religion’s teachings are wrong and don’t deserve equal civil rights.”

  10. Turanga Leela*

    Echoing the people who would want to know. In my industry (law/public policy/government relations), this would be a huge deal that could get both the employee and my organization into a lot of trouble.

    To be clear, this isn’t just a social media issue. If an employee at my organization regularly stood on a street corner and yelled slurs at people, I’d have a problem with that. Similarly, if we had an employee who wrote a column or self-published a newsletter in which he taunted fat people and gay people and lionized a race-baiting misogynist, I’d have a problem with that too. The problem isn’t “being controversial on Twitter,” it’s “being a jerk in public.”

  11. Sprezzatura*

    Having recently completed my company’s sexual harassment training, this guy’s feed could be construed as harassment and HR should definitely be notified.

    1. fposte*

      You guys must have a really strict policy. It’s not likely to constitute harassment legally–he’s not saying these things on work time to co-workers.

  12. C Average*

    I think it’s important to take care in using the word “censor” in these contexts.

    A company can’t forbid you to tweet any offensive thing you want.

    A company can, however, decline to keep you on the payroll if you tweet offensive things. Once you’ve been fired, you’re free to continue tweeting offensive things and to look for employment with a company that’s less concerned about the content of your Twitter feed.

    That’s not the same thing as censorship.

    1. J.B.*

      But then the company would be perrrsecuuttting the pooor person who has a RIGHT to free speech!

  13. A Non*

    To me what makes the difference is that he’s in a client-facing role. I wouldn’t want anyone who is gleefully publicly nasty working with my clients, regardless of their views. (Though the fact that he’s anti-LGBT is an extra level of ick and potential workplace harassment, and that doesn’t change if he’s client facing or not.)

    Since the LW says he recently removed the company name from his profile, I wouldn’t be surprised if they already know about it.

  14. AliceW*

    My company has a social media policy as part of our code of conduct and they can fire you for behavior on social media platforms that is contrary to its code. Many companies in financial services have to monitor employee social media accounts as people could be inadvertently using their account to advertise the firm’s services. These advertisements could be contrary to regulations. As a condition of employment you abide by the company’s rules. If you do not want your social media accounts to potentially be monitored by the firm, you can choose to work elsewhere.

    1. Mike C.*

      That’s pretty nuts. If there’s a problem someone can report it, but actively monitoring everyone is really insane. Saying that “if you don’t like it, work elsewhere” isn’t good enough either as it can be used to justify all sorts of gross violations of privacy.

      For instance, Pan Am used to physically check and make sure their flight attendants were wearing girdles. If you weren’t cool with your employer checking your undergarments, you could always chose to work somewhere else.

      1. Karo*

        My company has a similar policy, but no one is actively monitoring – it’s really just there as a CYA so that if someone contacts us to say “Hey, Tyrion is being incredibly racist,” we have clear cause to move forward. And if we don’t see evidence of it but want to keep an eye out, we can just follow Tyrion.

      2. moss*

        Nobody’s actively monitoring, that would be a crazy waste of resources. It’s a policy in place so they can get rid of people who are embarassments.

        1. Mike C.*

          This was in the comment I was replying to:

          Many companies in financial services have to monitor employee social media accounts as people could be inadvertently using their account to advertise the firm’s services.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            I believe in this case there are regulations relating to advertising financial services – if it counts as advertising, it needs to have certain required information/legalese included. If people are posting on social media and it counts as advertising, but not posting the legally required info, the company could get in trouble, fined, etc.

            So they feel they need to monitor things to prevent that from happening, because it’s not just a matter of someone letting them know it’s happening – they could get in major trouble if someone reported an employee advertising on social media.

      3. AW*

        To me it depends on what AliceW means by “monitoring”.

        Keeping an eye on any posts/tweets/whatever that are already completely public: fine. Financial regulations are serious business so if they feel it’s worth the resources to make sure no one is blatantly violating them, that’s OK.

        Requiring employees to add the company to their Friends/Circle/Whatever: EW.

        Requiring employees to hand over their login information: No one should be doing this. The fact that it’s a thing anywhere is pretty messed up.

        1. Mike C.*

          My wife previously worked somewhere where she was required to add her boss as a friend on Facebook, so I’ve experienced this first hand.

      4. Serafina*

        Unfortunately, that is a necessary precaution in many industries. Mine (legal) has very strict advertising rules, and even a comment by a third-party (e.g. “hey, Sera’s a kickass lawyer, better watch out!”) can lead to attorneys and/or their law firms being disciplined. Posts on social media that suggest a bias which could impact how a professional (and their employees) provide services can also result in discipline by the Bar/Board/Disciplinary Committee du Jour, usually in the form of fines at best, loss of licenses at worst. To say nothing of the media damage when a scandal like that becomes public.

    2. moss*

      I was thinking the same. I think ‘harassing statements’ on social media is against our company policy (I have not verified this). Being a twitter troll would fall under that. Especially when he was listing the company’s name on his account. After he changed it to something else, maybe more of a gray area. But being associated with the company is, in its own way, a privilege that can be revoked.

    3. the_scientist*

      My company also has a social media policy, but it basically is “if you’re going to be publicly connected to us, be careful about what you’re putting online”. They aren’t monitoring anybody’s social media usage, per se, but our corporate communications team does track how and where the company name or social media campaign codes show up online.

      There is zero requirement to link your social media presence to the company (in fact, the policy encourages against it), zero requirements to submit to monitoring, and no requirement to turn over any passwords.

      1. zora.dee*

        I think having a policy at the outset that people have to go over when they get hired, is the best way to deal with this stuff. In training for a political campaign they went over the social media policy and gave you a choice: “We will be googling all of your social media accounts on Monday morning. Use the weekend to decide which of the following you want to do.

        1. Lock it all down. Make sure nothing is searchable by your name, your photos are private, etc, so that if anyone looked you up, they would not find anything.
        2. If you want to be linked to our official campaign social media, you must wipe your accounts of anything that could be questionable, and follow these guidelines for all posting during the campaign (which were written out.)
        If, when we look at your account on Monday morning, it is public and there is anything that violates our guidelines, you will be fired immediately.”
        You also had a 3rd option: lock down your real account, and make a second “official” profile that would be public and could be linked to the campaign. But they were SUPER clear about this before your first day, and you had the choice to follow the policy or decline the job. My stuff I already keep private anyway, so I had no problem keeping everything severely locked down through the end of the campaign. It makes sense, because any violations could severely effect the campaign and the candidate (see: various news stories) and it didn’t ever come as a surprise to anyone.

        I think more companies should start to be really intentional about this stuff. The world has changed, and the internet is something we have to deal with now.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        Our policy is that you have to have a statement in any public SM profile saying that your views are not necessarily the views of your employer – even if your employer’s name isn’t visible anywhere on your profile. You can also be disciplined for unauthorised use of the employer’s logo, violating patient privacy, jeopardising intellectual property, posting untrue information about the employer, or breaking Canadian hate speech law (which I believe is a lot more prescriptive than US law).

      1. Karo*

        No, but people have really weird concepts of what they are and aren’t allowed to legally do. In those environments, it’s a lot easier to move forward with a firing if you are doing something explicitly stated to be Against The Rules (TM).

        1. AW*

          It would also help out folks like the OP who aren’t sure whether they should bring this up. By explicitly having a policy the company makes it clear that this is something they want to know about.

  15. James Buchanan Burn*

    For me, the issue is whether his Twitter troll persona is tied to his RL identity. Since it is (who DOES that?!) I think consequences are fair. Trying to doxx trolls who don’t link the two is a different story.

    1. C Average*

      I agree with this. If you have to do extensive detective work to link a Twitter profile to a person, it’s a pretty big stretch to claim the Twitter feed presents a risk to client relations. But if it’s the first hit when you Google the person’s actual name, it’s a different story. It goes to not just the offensiveness of the content, but the poor judgment of the employee in putting that kind of content out there in a readily discoverable format.

    2. Brogrammer*

      Yeah, this. Until recently, he even listed the company name right there on his profile! Just because he removed it, doesn’t mean the connection disappears. The Internet never forgets.

  16. Not an IT Guy*

    Is it really a thing nowadays to Google ones account rep though? I agree that yes, this situation could potentially cause harm to the company. But I’m not spending my days screening the account reps I deal with on a daily basis for viewpoints I disagree with, all I care about is if they do the job I expect them to do.

    1. CMT*

      Well OP did for perfectly legitimate reasons, so I think that we can conclude people are, or could be, out there googling this guy. I’ve looked up coworkers and other work contacts on LinkedIn and even googled a few. It’s not unreasonable.

    2. C Average*

      I have an unusual name–like, unusual enough that if you knew my company or state of residence and my first name, you could find me with a Google search. Back when I was doing consumer-facing tech support, it used to amaze me how many Facebook friend requests and Twitter follows and LinkedIn connection requests I got from strangers with whom I’d had a fleeting interaction. I’m not sure why people sometimes Google and even try to connect with people with whom they’ve briefly done business, but it has definitely happened to me.

      1. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

        Speaking of which C Average, I am about 95% sure I am Facebook friends with your sister based on things you’ve mentioned here. If she’s got a cross-eyed fellow called Waylon in her life, I am sure.

    3. neverjaunty*

      The OP isn’t screening anyone for ‘viewpoints I disagree with’. I’m not sure why people keep conflating the guy’s political views with his delivery.

    4. Noble*

      I “google” (or research in some manner) nearly everything. I don’t know if that relates to my being an autodidact but it is fun and important to me to understand everything I can about things that interest me. When I meet new clients, I often google them before meeting in person. I’ve thankfully never found anything hateful from anyone I work with, but I like to get an overall sense of who they are based on whatever footprints they’ve left behind. Usually I just find community involvement, projects, and family stuff. I don’t do intensive searching on individuals, but as this letter pointed out, putting in someones name and their twitter being the first thing to come up would mean very easily that someone could find negative things out about someone through a very simple/harmless search.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        I do this as well. I don’t often google individual names, but I do my research on companies that I’m entering into a business relationship with. Call me a snob if you must, but I want to do my research to verify that I’m dealing with companies that *I* think are ethically sound – and the definition may differ for everyone. This is one thing that I would have a major problem with, and if I happened to find this information by innocently googling a person or company I would feel obliged to speak up.

    5. Temperance*

      Hate speech isn’t a “view I disagree with”. It’s … hate speech.

      I really disagree with you on this. I google account reps, regularly, because I don’t do a good job keeping my contacts updated. So if I googled my trophy rep, for example, and saw a hateful screed against gay people … I would find a new company to worth with or I would call his boss and ask for a new rep. I’m not paying a hatemonger commission.

      I do this with all vendors that I use, though, FWIW.

    6. AW*

      I’m not spending my days screening the account reps I deal with

      The OP isn’t worried about you specifically, they’re worried about the company’s clients, some of whom might Google the person they’re dealing with.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        Exactly and I would imagine that most of them wouldn’t Google him looking for dirt … but maybe they lost his phone number or something else completely innocent and this is what they’d be treated to.

  17. Mike C.*

    I’ve certainly been on both sides of this general issue and I just draw the line at this – if you’re spouting things that are actively harmful or mirror the sort of speech that would get a group noticed by someone like the SPLC, then you’ve crossed a serious line and the employer should be ethically allowed to step in. Beyond that, so long as they aren’t directly connecting the company to the speech, let it go.

    Here, this clearly crosses the line.

        1. Don P.*

          I can imagine that somebody might make a Twitter account under their own name and use it for completely innocuous postings for a while, then slowly decode he’s going to become an online asshat, and not re-evaluate his name/bio.

  18. Frank Jensen*

    “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”

    Noam Chomsky

    1. neverjaunty*

      Oh. You’re an advocate of the Preferred First Speaker doctrine. That’s not actually free speech, regardless of how much name-checking or Nazi comparisons you throw in.

      1. CM*

        I wasn’t familiar with that term, so I Googled it — I agree, very useful, thanks!

        I also agree with that Chomsky quote… along with all the comments who explain that that quote is entirely compatible with this situation. I believe that people have the RIGHT to say hateful things. And I have the right to criticize them or decline to associate with them because of the hateful things they say.

      2. Leatherwings*

        This is the best thing I’ve learned today. Bookmarking an article on Preferred First Speaker doctrine right now.

      1. neverjaunty*

        There’s a particular type of Internet commenter that defines “free speech” as “the freedom to say nasty, ‘edgy’ stuff without any consequences of any sort”.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Well, but only that commenter gets to say nasty stuff. Any nasty stuff in response is people being “too sensitive” and “PC.”

    2. C Average*

      This isn’t about free speech, though. This is about speech within the context of employment. You can say literally anything you want in this country, and that’s a great thing. You can also be fired, deemed an asshole or worse, unfriended, and shunned on the basis of your speech. All of these things can also be consequences of poor judgment associated with speech. If you demonstrate that you don’t have a solid grasp of WHERE it might be inappropriate to fully exercise your free speech (say, on the internet, under your real full name, in full view of God and your boss and your clients and the world), it says something important about your business judgment. That’s relevant.

          1. JBurr*

            Okay, completely off-topic, but we hosted a Clue-themed mystery dinner on Friday, and Mrs. Peacock was 1) married to female!Col. Mustard 2) having an affair with Miss Scarlett and 3) the jewel thief.

    3. Noble*

      Freedom of Speech isn’t the issue here. Consequences for exercising said freedom, is. There’s a difference. Say what you want, no where does this say you are free from the consequences. That consequence could mean a company no longer wishes to be affiliated with you or provide you a paycheck.

    4. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Jerk can say whatever he likes.

      Company can decline to continue to employ him if he creates a hostile work environment for his coworkers or drives away customers.

      The freedom to swing your fist stops in front of the other guy’s nose.

      And only governments are able to censor.

      Private companies and individuals can decide for themselves how much crap they put up with.

      I don’t care what people say, but nobody is entitled to an audience.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Free speech is about what the government can do.

      No one is saying he shouldn’t be allowed to say this awful garbage. He might not be able to say this awful garbage and keep working at this particular place. He might not be able to say this awful garbage and stay friends with people who are upset by it. He might not even be able to say it on Twitter, if they crack down on slurs. But he can still say it all he wants and not go to prison.

      Nice Godwin, though.

    6. Temperance*

      You can say whatever you like. You can also reap the consequences of saying whatever you like.

  19. mags*

    Freedom of speech is a right that is given to you by the government and which can only be removed by the government. It has nothing to do with this situation, which is simply about professional repercussions from private comments.

  20. Bend & Snap*

    I’m in corporate PR and we absolutely look for this kind of behavior on Twitter, either to counsel the person or for it to be handled in other ways–if you can be identified on Twitter and you’re throwing views and comments out there that are at are at odds with the company’s values, are inflammatory or are generally not accepted in society, it’s a problem for the company and for the employee.

    Sure, people can do whatever they want on Twitter, but the company is also within its right to respond when they find out that the employee is spewing racist/sexist/homophobic comments all over Twitter and other social channels.

    1. Mel*

      Where does this stop though? Would you have a problem with someone posting about getting drunk? About someone being rude? About someone who’s religion conflicts with company values? About someone’s lifestyle that doesn’t reflect the company’s values? About someone cheating on their spouse? About defaulting on loans?

      1. AD*

        I think Bend&Snap already addressed that:
        “people can do whatever they want on Twitter, but the company is also within its right to respond when they find out that the employee is spewing racist/sexist/homophobic comments all over Twitter”

  21. newlyhr*

    This is a tough one, I am an opinionated person myself and I will post things about what I believe on my own personal social media. However, posting controversial ideas is not what this sounds like.

    If one of our employees got a DWI on a Saturday night, I would not let him drive a company car on Tuesday afternoon just because he got the DWI on his own time. In fact, if he had to drive as a regular duty of his job, I might even dismiss the person because his off duty behavior has rendered him untrustworthy to perform the regular functions of the position and the potential harm is too great. I have a legitimate reason to believe that his off duty behavior might cross over into the workplace and potentially harm himself or others and/or present a liability to the company.

    I think we need to start holding public displays of hate speech and bigotry to the same standards. It’s one thing to have an opinion or even to be bigoted (not that I condone that, just acknowledging that it exists) it is quite another thing to engage in racial slurs, incite violence, speak profanity, threaten people, and use vile hate speech. Someone who is willing to put that kind of crap out into the public sphere for consumption by potentially millions of people is not just an egotistical narcissist, he is potentially dangerous.

    This hands off attitude by employers will change the first time that somebody sues an employer because an employee went from tweeting this kind of stuff on his Twitter account to acting it out in the workplace. The standard— “did you know or should you have known” that this employee was a threat—will be the first thing a prosecuting attorney will throw out on the table.

    1. Mel*

      What if he ended up being found not guilty? Or he claimed he was being profiled?

      Hate is subjective. What if he said he disagreed with homosexuality or the idea of mixing races? Is that hateful?

      My point is it’s way more complicated than you’re making it sound.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Not sure how you “disagree” with someone’s sexual orientation. It’s not exactly a matter of consensus.

      2. Karo*

        What if he said he disagreed with homosexuality or the idea of mixing races? Is that hateful?

        …yes, both of those things are hateful. That’s not complicated. Or is that the point you were trying to make? I’m so confused.

        1. Mel*

          one can be tolerant of things with which they disagree without being hateful, no? “I don’t believe in that God/lifestyle/custom, but to each his own”

          1. Tea*

            Honestly, I don’t know about that. I’ve heard all sorts of “It’s not that I hate [X] group of people, it’s just that I don’t agree with their [whatever]” language and when it’s concerning a minority group, somehow this always shakes out to still denying [X] group of people equal protection under the law, equal rights, or just plain calling them subhuman and not worthy of fair treatment in some way. If someone said that they disagreed with homosexuality or mixing races… does that mean they disagree with the rights and/or humanity of their lesbian or mixed race coworkers? There’s really no disguising the hatred or bigotry of statements like that with “it’s just an opinion” or “it’s just my religious belief!” when you’re out and out stating that you disagree with someone’s fundamental existence.

            To go with an extreme example, say that I regularly post social media content along the lines of “Black people should never have equal rights. They’re basically the same as animals, and should live out of sight of REAL human beings. That’s what it says in my holy text.” When called out on it, I protest that I’m not being hateful– just honest and true to my religious convictions, and that since I’m not personally lobbying for all black people to be shot on sight or personally calling them horrific slurs, it’s just a ~difference of opinion~. Some people, I suppose, would accept that reasoning and leave it at that, but I know that I could never look at someone like that the same way ever again, or think of them as anything other than “that person who really really REALLY hates black people.”

            1. Mel*

              the difference there though is in my example I’m not advocating or suggesting that anyone should be treated differently. Thats where I think it turns to hate, but I’m not sure everyone else differentiates it the same way. And I think people are quick to assume hate anytime someone disagrees.

              I don’t believe in gods or religious writings other than mine. That doesn’t mean I hate them or believe that everyone should agree with me. It just means they’re not for me.

              1. Tea*

                I think you’re on the mark in that people see similar statements in very different lights. I do think that disagreeing with someone’s fundamental existence is an expression of hate and a denial of their humanity, but that people expressing the… ah, disagreement, may not see it that way.

                Another example: if a Christian friend tells me that he/she’s praying for me to see the light and convert to Christianity so I don’t go to hell, I… think… that they’re probably telling me this out of a place of love and honest hope for my future, and what they mean is, “I care about you so much, I want only good things for you and my hope is that you’ll end up choosing the correct and best path in life (and afterlife).”

                But what I hear is: “Who you are and what you believe is so awful that you’re destined to be in an eternal place of suffering. Forever. Unless you believe what I believe.” This person would not be my friend for much longer, even if they profess only to love and care for me, because beneath the love, the message that I hear is also true.

                1. Anon for this*


                  What I hear is “I think you deserve eternal torture.”

                  Of course, the people who say things like this don’t consider themselves responsible for that.

                2. Mel*

                  i agree with that but telling someone their beliefs are wrong and telling them you have different beliefs aren’t the same thing.

                3. Tea*

                  @Mel, because we’re out of nesting.

                  No, because beliefs are not identical to identity (although sometimes they follow the same path.) And people can have different beliefs that are absolutely abhorrent, even if they’re not personally going about murdering/advocating for injustice.

                  If I FUNDAMENTALLY disagree with someone that chocolate is the best ice cream flavor, I probably do not hate them for their incorrect choices at Baskin Robbins.

                  If I FUNDAMENTALLY disagree with someone that Christianity is an acceptable religion to follow, that women are equal to men, and/or that being trans is acceptable, then yeah, I probably hate Christians/Christianity, women, and trans people.

                  Some things in life are “agree to disagree” types of matters, and yes, those things vary from person to person. But if I fundamentally disagree with who they are, their very existence, how can I say that I’m not denying them their humanity? To me, that is definitely hatred.

          2. Anon for this*

            Hi. I’m an LGBT person. Another person’s existence isn’t really something to “disagree” with or “believe in.” I’m a real person, not an abstract concept. I’m here.

            If someone finds my existence distasteful, they ought to own it.

  22. Lora*

    I, for one, LOVE it when people post these things under their real names where I can easily find it.

    Everyone who is a raging asshat should have it so easy to find out; that way I can avoid them and my life is that much pleasanter. The only thing that would be even better is if they had to have it tattooed somewhere highly visible. Scarlet A for Asshat.

    In the case of a vendor account rep, I have the choice of either 1) plotting my wrath the next time he comes to my company to try to sell me things or 2) requesting that the company please send someone not a total asshat if they would like me to contemplate purchasing their products.

    Once in a great while it does happen that the vendor chooses to keep their asshattery and I choose to take my business elsewhere, as is both our rights. Presumably there is some company staffed by similarly-minded asshats who prefer to purchase from one of their own, and best of luck to the vendor who caters to this sub-demographic. *coughcough* GE *coughcough*

      1. Lora*

        Personal experience. I booted two of their reps out of my lab for jerk behavior and the Very Large UberPharma I worked for at the time promptly replaced all of their technology with their competitor’s, because their service was so horrible. Their technology was just meh, but the service douchebaggery was a sight to behold.

      2. my two cents*

        I don’t know of anything recent, but in general…across all of their divisions, across all different industries they serve, GE is the absolute worst.

    1. BRR*

      I enjoy it as well but find it weird when people say these things and use their real name. It’s easy to be anonymous. But with more sites using Facebook for comments I’m surprised how many people have no shame in what they say or at least recognize that maybe it’s not in their best interested to have certain comments tied to their name.

      1. AW*

        Yeah apparently the workplace is a big party and you hire people based on how fun they are. And you base how fun someone is by how much they can deliberately offended co-workers and clients.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          My coworkers are pretty fun bunch, but no one is a hateful monster. so….yea….

    1. FD*

      Mm, you’re right, most people would much prefer to have people who thoughtlessly spew hate at everyone at a party. It’s much more entertaining.

    2. Katie F*

      I’d rather be at a party with someone who treats everyone with common decency than with the guy spouting homophobic slurs because it’s “edgy”.

    3. Mustache Cat*

      I’m rolling my eyes forever at your username. Y’know? I’d like to have OP at my parties. That would be far better than having Ser Troll of the Twitterlands.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. I really don’t enjoy the kind of parties where, if they were a movie, “Your Racist Friend” would be on the soundtrack.

      2. C Average*


        I’ve noticed that when I see the phrase “politically correct” or its acronym, I can usually just substitute “correct.” As in decent, polite, appropriate. It’s correct to call people by their preferred pronoun. It’s correct to refrain from making comments about people’s race or ethnicity. It’s correct to be mindful of other people’s triggers and vulnerabilities and to adjust your speech and behavior to your audience. It’s correct to not just say every single thing that pops into your head without thinking about whether it’s kind, true, helpful, etc.

        1. LQ*

          Absolutely. I think of it as kind or polite. Like oh, you don’t want to be call thing I didn’t realize was offensive? I am really sorry, I will absolutely not call you that again, I really appreciate being told so I can be less mean because I don’t actually like being mean. I super appreciate it because frankly I’m super lucky in that there are a lot of things that are really shitty in life I’ve never experienced and in exchange for not having to experience them I’m super willing to not make you feel bad and if I need to be told that? Yes please! I would like to make the lives of those around me less shitty even if in tiny increments.

        2. Rucifer Kale-Hedwington*

          You can also replace PC with respectful or considerate which works well. God that’s so PC sounds silly when replaced with God that’s so respectful.

          I can’t remember who it was that commented here and said all being political correct means is not being a jerk to people who are different to you. But I really liked that too.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yep. I love doing that particular mental find/replace. “Do we really have to be [Not Jerks] about this?” HMMM.

    4. Rucifer Kale-Hedwington*


      Because they don’t want to listen to hate speech that seems an odd thing to judge them on but ok.

    5. Empress of the Galaxy*

      Yeah, I’m always delighted to hang out with thoughtful, considerate people who are opposed to hate speech. It makes conversation so much more pleasant.

    6. Turtle Candle*

      It fascinates me that there’s such a common assumption that rude and intolerant people are fun, and polite and respectful people are not-fun. Certainly it is more fun for me to not be harassed and insulted; I have to assume that people who think that harassing and insulting people are fun are speaking from a position of security that they will never be the target, that they will always be on the ‘fun’ side of bullying.

    7. Leatherwings*

      Yeah, I’d actually rather have OP at parties (who views me as a human regardless of my race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity) than pretty much anyone who whines about how the OP probably isn’t fun at parties. More to the point, I’d rather work with OP too.

    8. Temperance*

      You haven’t been to many LGBT-friendly parties, have you? I’m guessing not.

      What I can say is that the best party I have ever been to was thrown by a friend who is a gay ex-seminarian, and most of the other guests were also gay ex-seminarians. You’re missing out.

    9. Suzanne*

      They sound a hell of a lot more fun than you! I’ll take the respectful, considerate person over the dismissive, arrogant, rude jerk anytime.

  23. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I said this a few weeks back – some of you may recall the woman who complained that her Facebook picture in body paint wound up all over the office after she friended her boss.

    As usual – I will repeat – if you’re going to play on your Smart phone, play it smart. What you say or do online can end up ANYWHERE at anytime.

    If you post a Tweet OMG I got so s**tfaced! or a Facebook post with an embarrassing picture – and you have a job application somewhere – you may get vetted by a potential employer – and you may never get that job offer.

    Likewise – this guy you refer to had something out there which may come back to haunt him.

  24. FD*

    Here’s the thing that distinguishes it for me, personally.

    It’s one thing if you have an opinion on a policy that I find abhorrent. For example, let’s say that you believe that gay marriage should be illegal and have posted a lot to that effect. OK, I disagree…but I don’t think you should be fired for it, even if I may privately wonder if you do have some internalized homophobia.

    It’s different when you post things that attack entire groups of people. That not only tells me that you’re a bully, but it also tells me that you don’t have much common sense about it. This person’s Twitter handle was the top hit for their real name. That means that you not only have these opinions, but you don’t even understand why others may disagree.

    That means two potential issues as an employer:
    1. Customers may google you, and may be concerned by what they see
    2. There may be harassment issues in the workplace, because there’s a good chance you talk like this at work

  25. MT*

    I feel that a company should be free to fire any person for any speech outside of work. There are lots of hot button/political speech that could in some way effect a company and its reputation. If an employee’s outside of work conduct was effecting business negativity i would not want them around.

    Everyone is allowed to perceive unpopular/hate speech as they please. FYI, just picking on this one example, but it goes both ways and countless other ones. Some people see the term ” blue lives matter”/”black live matters” as dangerous and or hate speech and or controversial .

    1. fposte*

      Yup, and that got more complicated recently with the Israel component of the BLM official platform.

    2. Mike C.*

      You can draw a pretty solid line between harmful/hate speech and speech that is politically unpopular but otherwise fine. We have employers who if they found out you donated to the wrong campaign would fire you on the spot. Those databases are open to the public.

      1. James Buchanan Burn*

        I’m not so sure you can, Mike. I mean, obviously using offensive slurs to refer to gay people is a dick move, but what about expressing opposition to civil gay marriage? I know people who would be sincerely hurt and offended by that, and who would absolutely consider it hate speech. I know other people who wouldn’t. The line is far from clear.

        1. Mike C.*

          If your opposition to gay marriage is so extreme that it gets the attention of the SPLC, then it indeed is a clear line.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Let’s not forget “hate speech” has a legal definition, even if the US doesn’t have hate speech laws (I don’t think?) Dangerous or controversial are in the eye of the beholder to a large extent, however.

      1. fposte*

        Correct on the U.S. not having it. Is there some kind of UN or EU definition that’s broadly accepted? I looked for examples but just found untenably broad summaries.

  26. Evie J.*

    I think it would be a goof idea to let PR know. I’ve seen a lot of cases where client-facing people stir up trouble using their real names (with their professions on their profiles) publicly on social media. I’m reminded of the Justine Sacco incident who made a distasteful Tweet for the public to see. The wrong person saw it and re-Tweeted it, it went viral, and she was fired because she listed her workplace on her account. She was completely ruined. People often look at her older Tweets (some of which were also distasteful) to point out that she didn’t just have a single lapse of judgement.

    This could potentially happen here. It looks bad for the company and, like a lot of people have pointed out so far, it might scare off clients if they found his posts. If one of his posts went viral like Justine Sacco’s, he could be ruined like her too. (Although she was a PR director which I think made her situation more ironic.) I know OP said the guy removed the company from his account profile but it’s really surprising (and really scary) how easily that info could be found again (on other social media) with just his name and even a picture. It could turn into a mess if the guy angered a bigger troll than him.

    1. Leatherwings*

      So the OP shouldn’t point out that this guy’s Twitter homophobia could hurt the company because it could become public that he was fired for homophobia?

      I tend to believe that in this day and age the company could get worse press for allowing this guy to stay on than refusing to tolerate hate speech by their employees.

      1. my two cents*

        I think they meant “good idea” not “goof idea”, as the rest of their comment is pro- shutting the twitter troll down.

      2. Megs*

        I think that *goof* should be *good* here, and Evie is arguing that HR should deal with this before it leads to bad press.

  27. Turtle Candle*

    I find this part of it particularly fascinating:

    He removed the company’s name a few weeks ago — now it has something about “triggering supplicating millennial babies.” Ohhh kay. One of his most recent tweets crossed a major line for me: he used a homophobic slur, specifically to taunt people for being “too sensitive” online.

    I would be deeply uncomfortable if my coworker or account rep or whoever was a vocal homophobe/racist/whatever under any circumstances, but the thing that makes this particularly interesting to me is that this is someone who is quite clearly being deliberately provocative. That is in fact the stated purpose of the twitter account–to trigger people, to taunt people, to get a response. It isn’t a case of someone stating offensive things to like-minded souls or personal friends or family (which would be bad enough)–it’s someone who is trying to hurt people and get a response out of them on purpose.

    So in this case I’d feel not even a twinge of guilt reporting it. If you are trying to get attention and a response, you don’t get to be upset when people respond. If you are intentionally provoking someone, you don’t get to cry foul when they are in fact provoked.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      If you are intentionally provoking someone, you don’t get to cry foul when they are in fact provoked.

      Beautifully put. I might need to make a needlepoint of that.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Yes, this.

      I think there’s a legit gray area with sincerely held beliefs, expressed sincerely, that are controversial or… [struggling to find the right word here] “unenlightened.”

      This is not that situation. Not even close.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      “If you are trying to get attention and a response, you don’t get to be upset when people respond. If you are intentionally provoking someone, you don’t get to cry foul when they are in fact provoked.”


  28. Student*

    “…we’re opening the door to meddling in other kinds of employee speech”

    The horse has already left the barn.

    Companies can and do already fire people for the things Alison express as concerns about a slippery slope. You are only protected from being fired for a pretty narrow set of criteria (race, gender, protected disabilities, etc…). People get fired for having political bumper stickers their boss doesn’t like, for having social media photos containing alcohol, for being gay, for advocating positions on abortion.

    Historically, this employment discretionary power has been mostly people getting fired for issues like being gay, instead of for issues like using gay slurs to attacking vulnerable minority groups. I’m ready to tilt the table in the other direction. On the other side of the coin, consumers and employees can and do boycott companies with policies they don’t like, but there’s a substantial power differential.

    Is there danger? Could it backfire? Could it go too far? Yes. I’d prefer if everyone did it with restraint, after trying other remedies. But there’s no legal restriction on it whatsoever – it’s purely constraints via social conventions, principles, and morals right now.

    1. Serafina*

      Agree 100%. There are jerk employers who will fire or threaten to fire people for supporting one candidate over another (see: David Siegel over Obama), fire or threaten to fire employees for practicing the wrong religion or just practicing their shared religion wrong (there was a letter here on AAM about it IIRC), and any number of other things. Employers who are control freaks and meddle in their employees’ lives beyond professional boundaries have always existed and will always exist – there’s no “slippery slope” resulting from firing or reprimanding an employee who uses hate speech under his/her real name when his/her real name is associated with the employer.

    2. paul*

      My response to that is that we ought to be out trying to catch the damn horse and get it back in the barn, not just throwing up our hands and saying “oh well”.

      1. Leatherwings*

        But if that’s literally impossible, seems like a worthless effort, no?
        This is inevitable.

        1. paul*

          There’s been states that actually have legislated protection for political speech for employees; IIRC something like 1/3 of states offer *some* form of protection for political speech (ranging from specifically protecting political speech, to broader speech protections). So no, it isn’t inevitable.

  29. Turtle Candle*

    Also–I think that most (not all) people would agree that some types of speech merit firing, and some don’t. Most people, I think (again, not all, but most), would agree that it’s okay to fire someone for taking out a billboard that says “[Company I work for] sucks and is terrible, never buy their product, buy [competitor] instead,” even if they bought the billboard on their own time and on their own dime. On the flip side, most people would agree that it’s unreasonable and ridiculous to fire someone for telling their friend “I like kittens” over a private dinner, even if the boss hates kittens.

    The question, then, is not so much whether it’s okay to fire people for what they say outside of work, but where we as a society choose to draw the line. I am comfortable placing hate speech and especially public hate speech under the ‘reprimandable or terminable offense’ category. Other people will disagree–but at that point, for the most part, it is a question not of whether it’s acceptable to fire people for what they say, but where to draw the line. Of course people will disagree with where to draw the line, but it’s not as if firing someone for the billboard is exactly the same as firing someone for the kittens–that is to say, the slippery slope argument only goes so far–and it is a bit disingenuous to pretend that it is.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      Thinking about it more… a lot of things in work (and in life) are a spectrum, where you have to make a judgment call as to where to draw the line. And people are mostly okay with that; when someone posts “my employee punched me in the nose, can I fire her?” people (mostly) don’t go “but where will it end? what if someone gets fired for accidentally bumping into the boss in the hallway?” (Which, I mean, they totally could, in at at-will state; it’s just that most of us recognize that that would be unreasonable and frankly goofy.) But when it comes to speech, the idea of ‘free speech’ is such a hot button that the slippery slope argument comes out instantly. It’s as if on this topic there’s nothing but extremes, which is interesting.

    2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      I think most companies draw that line where it starts to affect business goals/aims and tasks. If customers are consistently leaving because of this employee, or if potential customers are going to competitors because of this employee, that could be cause for firing. If this employee is behaving in a hostile manner towards LGBT employees, or outright harassing LGBT coworkers (or those he thinks are LGBT), that affects the team’s ability to work together, so the “problem employee” could be asked to stop and fired if he doesn’t stop. There are other examples like this, but basically, most companies would choose to fire the employee when his behavior hits their bottom line.

  30. Terra*

    In a weird way this reminds me of the spider problem. The idea being that by killing the visible spiders you allow the ones that are better at hiding to flourish so you’re not really doing anything about the spider problems so much as you’re making them sneakier. A lot of the comments have been about getting rid of the coworker because they wouldn’t want to patronize a business that employed a homophobe (in some cases because they would be concerned for their safety), but is that really what this is doing? Or is it just teaching people to be sneakier about their bigotry? And if so which is better, the obvious bigot or the hidden one?

    Obviously the company would prefer to do something about the obvious bigot to prevent themselves from losing business but if you know that you had the option between doing business with a company that employed one obvious bigot (that you could theoretically avoid) or two subtle ones that you might unknowingly interact with which is better?

    It’s especially interesting since Alison’s advice if you had rapport with the coworker would be to advise them about “how it looks” which is basically about helping them hide their bigotry which makes you a good friendly coworker but is basically enabling a bigot to keep their job. It’s a thorny problem.

    1. Katie F*

      There probably is a fascinating conversation to be had about that – the obvious vs. the sneaky. But I’d argue that the idea isn’t to make the bigot sneak around, but simply to make the point that this stuff isn’t acceptable, and it’s not something you sweep under the rug or whisper about, it’s something that is SO unacceptable that the company will take real action to prevent it from happening again, or at least prevent themselves from being associated with it.

      While that doesn’t mean said bigot won’t go sit around their house bein ga bigot on their own time in the privacy of their home, it does mean that the people his bigotry hurts worst are no longer subject to it or forced to work with someone with such repugnant views.


    2. neverjaunty*

      That’s really a false dilemma. It assumes that you’re going to have the same number of jerks all the time; that you have to put up with obvious jerks; and that getting rid of open jerks has zero effect on the behavior of less-open jerks. None of that is true. You’re also assuming that there is no intrinsic value in making it clear that jerkdom is unacceptable.

      If you kill the obvious spiders, you have fewer spiders, especially since spiders are not exactly brilliant creatures that can perceive ‘aha, we are being hunted, time to change our evolutionarily-hard coded behavior patterns’. And if you’re going to make that leap, why not go all the way and assume the spiders will figure ‘crap, let’s move to another house’?

      1. LBK*

        And we have very direct, clear evidence in the other direction – that “closeted” people are encouraged by public displays of hate speech to act out on feelings that they’ve previously had to keep hidden. See: white nationalist groups explicitly stating that they feel emboldened by the visibility Trump’s campaign has given to their rhetoric. I would much rather we force racist/sexist/etc. people to pretend they’re not assholes in public as long as the end result is the same (ie people not being harassed, attacked, fired, etc. for who they are).

    3. Turtle Candle*

      This argument seems like it could apply to any wrongdoing, though. You make murder illegal, so murderers try to hide their crimes. Yes, of course it happens, and if murder was totally legal people probably wouldn’t try very hard to cover it up when they killed somebody. But that’s not really an argument for making murder legal.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Honestly, I think I would rather work with a secret bigot than an overt bigot. If someone is sitting there bigot-ing in their own head, I never need to know, and it can’t hurt me.

      (As long as it doesn’t come out in their work performance–I can think of cases where it might. But that’s a whole other issue and a whole other discussion.)

      1. Megs*

        I *know* I would rather work with a secret bigot than an overt bigot, because I’ve worked with the latter and it was awful.

        1. Lora*

          If you can avoid them or are at least nominally in charge of them, I prefer to work with overt bigots. If they are secret bigots, they still act out behind your back and make your life hard in ways that cannot be directly tied to them. Overt bigots, everyone knows why you avoid/fire those jerks and nobody complains. “Everyone, as of today, Phil is no longer with Company. I think we all know why. His projects will be transferred to John, so please consult John from now on with any Phil-related issues.” There’s a sudden morale and productivity boost. Cake and ice cream for everyone!

          1. neverjaunty*

            Overt bigots often do get away with overt bigotry because “oh, he’s such a high performer” or “don’t be so sensitive, he’s just plain-spoken.” And their overt bigotry chases good people away.

            1. Lora*

              True, that’s why I said it’s a personal preference, and only when I can avoid them or am at least sorta-kinda in charge of them. If Phil is a high performer and I’m not allowed to avoid him, discipline him or fire him for running his mouth, then it’s a different story. I have one such sitting across from me at the moment, actually.

              I’m in a weird industry where the option of “not working with asshats and bigots” is not available, sadly. Presumably other fields have workplaces where folks act decent, I just don’t happen to work in those places. Thankfully there are many other things to like about my job, but some industries and some regions can be a lot more bigoted than others. I grew up in a state chock-full of bigots and asshats, and I had to choose between appearing to conform or getting fired and/or assaulted for not nodding along with a lot of political, gender-based, sexuality-based and religious stuff. You do what you gotta do to live.

              I will say that it is extremely gratifying to have lived long enough that the shoe is on the other foot, though… :D

              1. Megs*

                Oh yeah, being able to avoid them or be semi-in charge of them is key. I was trapped in a room with the person I mentioned for weeks. It was bad. She was really upset about that lion being killed, but thought slum-lords had the right idea because the kind of people they rent to don’t deserve a good place to live if they haven’t earned it, and that children born out of wedlock should have the middle name “government” because they’re a burden on the rest of us.

    5. Q*

      Two things…well three, 1. I’m so itchy now!
      2. If you can get a bigot to not act bigoted you have the problem of the person who is horrible but who volunteers with orphans and helps them and donates all his money to charity and appears in all ways to be a wonderful person and never does mean things or discriminates. At some point you can’t tell, and if you can make it so that someone is a bigot in a way that is never expressed? Is that bad?
      3. I had a big spider issue a couple years ago. I killed them all. My friend brought the spider problem up. Normally I don’t care, but my legs and arms were covered in spider bites. That’s a problem. So I was a little stressed. Except every year since then I’ve not gotten the big bite problem. Honestly if there are spiders in my home and they never bite me and they never end up in my way? I don’t really care. (Sort of see #2) If they are invisible in all ways that matter to those impacted does it matter if they are still there? If those spiders realized that it doesn’t pay to bite me and so they leave me alone entirely? That’s fine.

      1. Katie F*

        In my house, the rule is “spiders who are outside are allowed to remain wherever they choose to live, but spiders who cross my threshold have violated the terms of peace and will be dealt with.”

        We have a healthy population of spiders who eat the mosquitoes around our house, so we get fewer bug bites than we used to, but if I see one inside… sorry, little spider. It’s time to meet Mr. Shoe. You violated our treaty.

        1. Q*

          That is almost exactly my rule! When they came inside and bit me, time for chemical warfare! The one who set up a web outside my window and got fed up really well on all kinds of things? I tried very hard to not disturb.

          1. Katie F*

            Plus, we live in the South so we get these HUGE female orb weaver spiders who are frankly just gorgeous to look at. And all they eat is pests. It’s a win-win.

            1. Kelly L.*

              But then they build an enormous web across your entire porch so you walk into it nope nope nope nope get it off me nope

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Very similar to mine! Spiders small enough that I can’t count their legs at a reasonable distance may stay, and I don’t mind cleaning up a few cobwebs when I dust. Anything over a certain size gets Mr. Shoe.

            1. Amadeo*

              Heh, I leave most things along in the house unless it’s widows, recluses or on me. If your bite is venomous to humanity or you have the audacity to crawl on me, all bets are off.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          That’s generally my rule for Things With More Than Four Legs in my home as well. Once in grad school I mentioned that I had to run home in a break in my (wide-age-range) language class to meet an exterminator who was coming to look at some bugs that had been, well, bugging me. Sixteen-year-old classmate said “Those bugs have just as much right to be there as you do.” I said “Oh, sweetie. No they don’t. To live? Yes. To live in my house? Not at all. I pay rent there. They do not.”

    6. Mike C.*

      I think your example doesn’t take into account that the visibility causes harm to others. If they were just being bigots in their living rooms and no where else, it wouldn’t be a problem. Allowing them to flourish in the open without consequences gives them a larger voice and more legitimacy.

      1. Serafina*

        A. Men. Hate speech is inherently harmful in that (a) it fosters hostility towards protected groups and (b) lets members of those groups know that this speaker and whatever position he/she holds is a threat to them and all like them. Groups who are victims of hate speech are protected because of their particular vulnerability and history of being not merely degraded and discriminated against but physically harmed and systematically oppressed. Hate speech is an outright effort to perpetuate those harms that a civilized society has decided should end.

  31. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I can tell you with certainty that any homophobic, racist, or otherwise derogatory statements that I made online (not that I would. ever. online or anywhere else.) would result in my immediate dismissal from work. There is literally no question in my mind. And I am proud to work for an organization that takes so strong a stance against speech of that nature.

  32. PRnotHR*

    As a PR person, I wouldn’t mind hearing this, but I’m just going to send it to HR anyway because it’s a very thorny issue.

    I would be curious to see if any of his clients have ever actually looked at his Twitter and made the decision to leave because of it. Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time researching my account rep online outside of LinkedIn and couldn’t find anyone in my office who does. (Not that that means anything). If it has ever been a problem before, I would be surprised if he hasn’t already been made aware that this is a problem.

    This is why it is so important to have a documented social media policy included in the employee handbook so that there is a record of an employee reading and signing it. It is allowable to state that any employee who has obvious ties to your company, particularly online, makes them a de facto ambassador for the company. In that regard, you can create negative consequences for using profanity, slurs, etc.

    It is important to note that several years ago the NLRB did state that social media, even though public, has the same protections as other speech meaning that you can’t punish people for sharing certain views (which would protect political affiliation) or for complaining about their workplace (covered under union protections).

    Overall, this isn’t a matter of what is and isn’t hate speech, but about the idea that no one is guaranteed a job and every company is allowed to define their own morals and culture within reason. If this person is violating this company’s norms then he should be handled by HR and they can go from there.

    1. neverjaunty*

      I suspect it is less about losing customers than about liability for the company.

      “Oh, no, we fired Jane for performance reasons. It had nothing to do with her gender.”

      “Let me show you the public social media postings by Jane’s supervisor.”

    2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      To your point about clients researching him, I also think few clients are likely to research their rep. But, as I posted downthread, some of my acquaintences work for a health insurance company that fired a rep who sought out and harassed customers over Twitter. So it’s possible customers won’t seek him out, but he’ll seek out the customers. And yes, if a (prospective) customer specifically tells the company “I will no longer be doing business with your company because of Twitter Guy’s comments” or “I chose to do business with Competitor instead because of Twitter Guy’s comments” then that might be something Twitter Guy’s boss might be interested to hear.

      1. LavaLamp*

        This is very industry-specific. Teapots, tech, engineering, health, law, education – all industries that are heavily research and computer-based, tend to have online communities of practice that tend to view the internet as an extension of their work. Searching for a name of somebody (particularly to add them on LinkedIn, or get a sense of their background, and everybody just uses Google to find all that junk) is often totally normal and routine to members of these industries when interacting professionally.

  33. paul*

    There’s free speech the concept, and free speech the legal issue. They’re two different things and I think it should be OK to call out censorious behavior as being inimical to free speech without people dogpiling on you. I don’t think I would in this case–there’s a very real possibility of significant backlash from customers, and according to OP its plain hate speech–but to just act like it’s OK to dismiss someone for saying any old random thing is baffling me. Yes, it is legal; it’s still a crappy practice and seeking to shutdown discourse through social pressure still strikes me as incredibly dangerous to society and harmful to individuals.

    For instance, in Texas, during the Bush vs Kerry race, there was a woman fired for having a Kerry bumpersticker on her car. Her boss saw it, told her to remove or be terminated. On her personal car, that, AFAIK, she didn’t drive for work. Was it legal? Yes, absolutely. Is that sort of behavior hostile to free speech and the free exchange of ideas? Also yes, and I think its’ OK to call out that behavior as being censorious.

    1. neverjaunty*

      “people dogpiling on you” here meaning, people exercising their rights of free speech. You’re complaining, in essence, that too many people are exercising their free speech at once on the same topic.

      Irony much?

      1. paul*

        Conflating getting people fired with verbally criticizing behavior, bravo! Proportionality much?

        1. fposte*

          I don’t get what you mean by dogpiling then–I thought you meant commenters’ responses here. Did you mean something else?

        2. neverjaunty*

          Structurally imitating a comment you dislike doesn’t make for a clever retort unless it is, in fact, clever.

      2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        Reminds me of my dad, who bleats on about “free speech” without knowing the first thing about law or government, then cries “stop jumping on me!!!” as soon as anyone disagrees with him. The right to free speech does not mean that what you speak is true or correct.

    2. Leatherwings*

      1) Demanding that people “stop dogpiling” or criticizing is using the same censorious action that you’re criticizing here. One person said it above (and taught me something wonderful as a result): It’s called the preferred first speak doctrine. More on that here:

      2) Calling people out for hate speech is not a crappy practice. C’mon. That’s similar to using the “spirit of free speech” argument that the link above talks about better than I’ll be able to.

      3) Having a candidate bumper sticker is a far cry from using hate speech. Using the F word (which is probably what twitter troll did) in a derogatory way is hateful and perpetuates violence against the LGBTQ community. It’s a logical fallacy to draw a comparison between these two things.

      4) Nobody is saying it’s cool to dismiss someone for saying “any old thing” – it’s for using hateful language directed against a marginalized group, i.e. hate speech. Literally not one person has said it’s okay to fire someone for saying something someone might disagree with.

    3. paul*

      To address point 2: I specifically said in my post I wouldn’t apply this hate speech. I’m pointing out–or trying to–that people are acting like the 1st Amendment is the entirety of the concept of free speech though, and I think that’s dangerous. A behavior can be legal and still destructive, dumb, immoral, etc.

      To address point 1: My criticism of that doesn’t rise to the level of, as in my example, a *firing* someone for having a bumper sticker you don’t like. If you’re conflating those two things, you’re just being obtuse.

      To address point 3: Except that it’s happened, and there’s posters here arguing that it’s OK. It isn’t.

      1. Leatherwings*

        So what would you apply this to then?

        The bumper sticker situation? Cool, so would everyone else here. I haven’t seen any posters arguing here that’s it’s fine to fire someone for their support of a political candidate that they’re expressing on their own time. Not one. If you see it and I missed it, why don’t you reply to them instead of replying to the whole board as if all discussion about personal beliefs is guilty of censorship.

        And really really really, there’s no such thing as “free speech” divorced from the Constitutional right to it. That makes no sense. If that were the case, it would literally mean that the first person who says something has a freedom from being told that they’re wrong or being dismissed by people who disagree. People who disagree with them would be censoring them and they win because they said it first. That’s a race to the bottom and it’s silly and totally not useful to the discussion we’re having here, which is specifically about hate speech.

        1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          Also, if there were such thing as free speech apart from the Constitutional right, it would entitle one to a platform or to an audience. In reality, there is no such entitlement: privately owned media outlets and organizations/corporations can choose whether or not to publish materials. They are not obligated by “free speech” to publish anything they don’t want to publish.

      2. Jaguar*

        I agree. There’s constitutional free speech and then there’s respect for free speech.

        Constitutional free speech is pretty straightforward: the government can not take measures to censor you. We’re all aware of having to put up with neo-Nazi ideas or whatever other hate speech as a consequence of that ideal.

        Respect for free speech is another issue altogether. People seem to have this idea that it’s not just okay but morally virtuous to eliminate bad ideas from being expressible, and not just for themselves but for the safety of other people. Trying to shut people up under the idea that there are people that will be adversely affected by hearing it is such a crazy dangerous idea and totally against any idea of progressive thought, and too many people fall that way of thinking. The way to move past hateful ideas is to address them in the open, not seek to prevent people from hearing them.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Really? Shutting down hate speech is crazy dangerous?

          Please. I literally can’t entertain this nonsense.

          1. Jaguar*

            “I disapprove of what you say, and I will fight to the death your ability to say it.”

            1. Leatherwings*

              Okay. Sure. That quote is actually about the first amendment, which isn’t what we’re talking about here. It’s not contextual and applying it to hate speech on twitter is incredibly privileged. And e has the ability to say it already, you don’t have to fight for that. What he doesn’t have is freedom from all consequences.

              To be clear, that’s sanctioning speech that actively perpetuates violence. Calling people gay slurs normalizes hate and creates space for hateful violent people to act out against LGBTQ people without fear of community reprisal. Hate speech has a dangerous history, particularly in this context and there’s no defense for defending outside of a Constitutional context (which, again, this is clearly not).

              1. Jaguar*

                Not to be pedantic, but it’s a(n adaptation of a) quote describing Voltaire, who died 13 years before the first amendment.

                I disagree with your claim that there’s no defense for allowing hate speech and am fully willing to discuss it, but what would be the point if you literally cannot entertain it? Your mind is already made up, right?

                1. Leatherwings*

                  It is pedantic, because the quote is referring to government censorship, i.e. the right enshrined in the first amendment.

                  And no, I literally cannot entertain the idea that someone should be free of social consequence for calling people hateful things. I don’t want to have a discussion about it, and I think you’re incredibly privileged for holding that belief because you most likely aren’t personally affected by it. I am. I am personally threatened when someone uses the F word (for example). And I’m telling you so in the spirit of free speech.

                2. Leatherwings*

                  And by the way, this wouldn’t only refer to gay slurs. If you really think everyone should be totally okay with people using racial slurs, then that says more about you then it does about Free Speech or Rights or Tolerance of Opinions ™

                3. Jaguar*

                  You’re right. I’m not personally affected by it (in a way I recognise). Your assumption that I’m not based on no evidence is awful.

              2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                While I agree with discussing hateful ideas in the open, I don’t agree that people should be free of social consequences for it. If I go to my boss tomorrow morning and scream “I hate you! Fuck you!”, I fully expect to be escorted out of the building by HR and security within minutes. So yes, there will be social consequences — both for expressing the hateful ideas and for responding to them. That’s necessary for progressive thought (to borrow Jaguar’s phrasing), but I disagree with protecting people from social consequences of their free speech.

                1. Jaguar*

                  Assuming you’re responding to me, I absolutely agree with consequences for speech (or, more broadly, to actions). My concern is that the position people have taken on the left in western society has been from a willingness to engage and refute ideas they object to, which is terrific, to a feeling that there are things which cannot be expressed, which is awful for numerous reasons. It is destructive to the open exchange of ideas, it doesn’t address the issues publicly which risks moving things backwards, it doesn’t change anyone’s mind so racists / bigots just think the things instead of saying them (which I would argue makes the problem worse), and it’s frankly arrogant and wrong to try and protect other people from speech you think they should be protected from. It’s very disappointing to me to see this trend towards trying to limit people’s speech and it seems to be getting worse all the time.

                2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

                  @Jaguar, in that case, I think we’re more or less on the same page. I’ve seen this trend you describe as well. I’m a conservative (not the “moralist” kind though) and I see it on the right too, I know many many conservatives who want to suppress discussion of evolution, sex/sex education, homosexuality, etc.

      3. neverjaunty*

        I specifically said in my post I wouldn’t apply this hate speech

        Why not? Do you, or don’t you, believe in free speech as a moral right?

  34. Tequila Mockingbird*

    Two words: Justine Sacco.

    What you tweet CAN and will be used against you in the workplace. It may not be fair, but that’s the world we live in.

  35. voyager1*

    I would send screenshots on printed paper in color to the CEO and head of HR and PR of the company annymously if I did anything on this. I would be terrified if it got out to this coworker that I was the one who outed him to lose his job.

    I know that is passive aggressive as hell, but the OP needs to protect themselves if they pursue this.

    1. Trix*

      I completely agree. I adore this blog, and the commenters are the most respectful, interesting group I’ve encountered on the internet.

      Leave the blog though… I don’t know how Alison has created such a fantastic community here, but I’m more and more grateful for it any time I venture into another comment section.

      1. Trix*

        Huh. That’s my picture next to my name. Not even the one currently associated with the settings of the email address I provided. Anyone know how that might have happened? Or more importantly, how to get rid of it?

    2. Sam*

      It got picked up by some other MRA sites as well, where they are confusing Alison with the OP and calling her stupid, a Nazi, a fascist, saying “snitches get stitches, Alison” among other vile comments. The troll isn’t your garden-variety bigot who happened to use a slur. There’s an entire community of people who recreationally target and harass people, and I’m not saying the OP’s troll is one of them, but at some point there needs to be some consequences for this. The same guys that are the first to cry “free speech” shut down and jump all over women and POC and attack them for being feminist or “social justice warriors (SJW)” and will pile on with HUNDREDS of vile tweets, comments, FB messages, with rape threats and death threats. These are not nice people. Again, not saying this is OP’s troll, but the same crowd that does this stuff is jumping to his defense.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah… the phrase OP’s troll changed their bio to makes me think they probably are part of that crowd.

    3. Bowserkitty*

      THIS. UGH. I read a few and then closed them out to come back here to read the RATIONAL responses.

  36. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

    Every time I start agreeing with a commenter on this blog…they post something like this.

  37. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

    Given that he has removed the company’s name from his profile, he’s acting as an individual, and not as a representative of the company. So, for now, it’s none of the company’s business. That doesn’t mean his behavior is going to end well, though. This is eerily similar to a story I was privy to a few months ago. I have acquaintances who work for a major health insurer. One of their employees was harassing gay and transgender people over Twitter, under his (fairly unique) full first and last name, and without the company’s name. It was the usual slurs and insults, plus occasional threats of violence. He was also in a public facing role as an advisor and often met with clients/potential clients.

    One day, he wasn’t content with harassing gay and transgender Twitter-strangers. He sought out and harassed a few of his clients that he had met with earlier that week. He knew their first and last names from the meeting. The clients took screenshots and emailed them to a customer service email address for the health insurance company, the message somehow made its way to the harasser’s boss, and the harasser was fired the next day.

    I would never advocate that “hate speech” be illegal. I put it in scare quotes for a reason. However, I fully advocate for the right of private organizations and corporations to fire (or not hire) people who harass their customers.

    I realize the OP’s coworker isn’t targeting customers, but given that his full first and last name are public, and given that he is in a public facing role, it’s only a matter of time before he goes after someone and finds out later that they are a customer.

    This may be expedited if you know one of his customers personally who can state that she will no longer be doing business with your company due to this person’s Twitter feed.

    1. Tea*

      What the ever loving frickle frackle. I don’t even have any WORDS for how awful that employee’s behavior is.

      That said, nobody is advocating for anything to be made legal or illegal here. Hate speech, and in fact most types of speech, is legal in the US. I DO think OP’s coworker’s actions are the company’s business, and that he should face the consequences as such, and I think that “waiting until he actually goes after someone” is worrisome in many ways, ESPECIALLY in light of the horrific acts of violence perpetuated against the LGBT community (and other minority communities) in recent memory. Do you actually want to wait until a bigoted asshole decides that raging on twitter isn’t enough and actually starts acting out in violent ways to kick him to the curb?

      I also wonder if the company would face any liability if say, Bigoted Douchecanoe (BD) was reported for his twitter, had the issues dismissed, and actually did harass or assault one of his clients afterward. Is the company at risk for a lawsuit for not dealing with the issue earlier?

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        First off, when I said “goes after someone”, I meant on Twitter, not IRL. Secondly, I think it’s unlikely this guy will actually become violent. If every social medial blowhard became violent, we would have a lot more mass shootings — thankfully, we don’t. But, I can understand if the company was concerned and fired him for fear of a workplace shooting or something.

        Also, firing or not firing him is a separate issue to whether or not he becomes violent. The company could fire him today and he could still commit violence against LGBT people tomorrow. It could even anger him into targeting LGBT clients/customers, coworkers, or others he blames for “getting me fired”.

        The liability question is interesting. If the issue was previously brought to their attention, and he later physically attacked a client, potentially. But IANAL.

        I’m also wondering now if this guy had his Twitter account before he was hired, and if OP’s company did a google search on him, saw it, and chose to hire him anyway…

        1. Tea*

          I don’t know, to be honest, I think we (I’m thinking the US) already have a lot of hate related mass shootings as it is. You’re definitely right, though, in that company actions couldn’t stop someone from choosing to commit crimes or targeting minority groups.

          In this case, I was thinking specifically about a situation like the one you described, where a bigot gains access to privileged information through work and then deliberately goes after people in the targeted group. It doesn’t necessarily have to be either purely online (ie. via twitter) or physical violence– there’s a lot of seditious stuff that can be done with personal information, like stalking a gay person to work, sending a Muslim woman hatemail at her home, or outing a transgender person in a hostile environment. Firing, theoretically, could cut off the bigot’s access to vulnerable people through work, though it definitely doesn’t change who they are or what they choose to do.

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Ah, I gotcha. I do agree somewhat more now. If an employee poses a credible threat to the safety or livelihood of coworkers or clients/customers, the company can fire him – I would.

  38. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

    I just re-read Alison’s response at the link and I missed this the first time: before we go any further it’s reasonable to ask whether making this kind of thing fair game for employers means that we’re opening the door to meddling in other kinds of employee speech. Does it mean that an employer could take issue with an employee posting in favor of reproductive rights, for example, or health-care access?

    I actually think employers should be allowed to fire me for advocating for reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and anything else. That’s why I apply common sense and do all online advocacy under pseudonyms. Looks like OP’s coworker doesn’t have the internet-smarts to do the same, and I guess those supplicating millenial babies won’t be cluing him in. Heh.

    1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      I should add, though, that the scenarios are not exactly equivalent. Someone advocating for universal healthcare (not me!) doesn’t pose a credible threat of harm towards clients or coworkers who disagree, neither does isuch advocacy itself indicate they are going to harass coworkers who disagree. By contrast, someone who is slurring a certain group does pose a somewhat-more-credible threat of harm towards clients or coworkers who might be members of that group, and indicates they may not be able to work well with coworkers who belong to those groups.

      My point is basically that, in this context as in many others, all viewpoints are not equivalent.

  39. NaoNao*

    Wow the comments over on NY Mag are off the chain today! People are very upset that they can’t go on Twitter with their full name and use hateful slurs without consequences. Who would have thunk it?

    1. Sam*

      The comments on NY Mag look like a ladies’ church meeting compared to the MRA site that picked it up (I won’t link to it because it’s disgusting) with hundreds of comments from not-very-bright commenters who have confused Alison with the OP, and use her full name when making pretty gross suggestions that she must have been romantically interested in the troll, who refused her advances, and that’s why she’s “stalking” him.

    2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      It seems they’ve confused “free speech” with “speech free of consequences”.

  40. Para Girl*

    Does your company have a Social Media Policy? This situation may be addressed there. If not, do you have a Code of Conduct? But you shouldn’t be making a decision on what is and is not allowed on behalf of your employer, anyway. If you have a reporting helpline (hopefully a confidential line) you should call that line and report your concern there. The company can have the appropriate people investigate and they can make the call on what to do.

  41. OP*

    OP Here: I did forward the tweet to the PR Director at Teapots, Inc., with three points:

    1) this guy’s homophobic slur is upsetting because it’s not what we’re about; this is the first thing that pops up in Google for his full name
    2) homophobic slurs don’t look so great to clients, and
    3) I suggested that this could affect coworker relationships.

    I also noted that I would take him off my lists and leave it at that, but over to them for the ‘dealing with his lack of judgement’ part. They replied immediately; they thanked me, said they took it very seriously, and had an internal Teapots Higherups meeting to figure out what to do. Shortly thereafter the in question tweet disappeared. HR followed up letting me know that he’s been warned, and will not engage in hate speech in public under an identity associated with the company in the future. I consider this the best possible ending.

      1. OP*

        Yeah, really the BEST best possible ending is that my coworker stops being a hateful ass online, grows up, and learns professional judgement… but, well.

  42. Anothermonkey*

    I just came across a rather good example of just why this can be a big issue for the company. It involves a PR storm over the twitter account of one Manveer Heir, Bioware Developer. And it’s causing a bit amount of disgust directed at Bioware in general.

  43. Anon for this*

    I have a question similar to this. (I am late to the game, so not sure if anyone will see this.)

    I’m the ED of a small organization. I got a phone call yesterday from the ED of another organization (we’ll call them Organization A) that we are friendly with – we are members of each others’ organizations, we occasionally plan events together, and most importantly, we are both cultural organizations in a community where all the non-profits and other organizations generally get along and help each other out.

    Recently, there were some issues with Organization A when one of their vendors displayed a racially-charged item at their event. They are, obviously, not inviting that vendor back, and they are working on updating their policies to help mitigate situations like this in the future.

    The ED of Organization A brought to my attention that one of my employees tagged Organization A in a social media post where they ranted about how Organization A was handling the situation. The ED felt, since we work closely together, that their organization was attacked by a friend, and they were surprised and upset. I looked up the post on social media, and it’s not too bad, in my opinion. It basically just says “Organization A, this is ridiculous that this happened at your event. This should not be tolerated, and I hope something is done about this.” She then posted again a few days later after Organization A had posted an apology, saying “What a watered down apology!” and ranting a bit more about it.

    I’m on the fence about whether I should mention this to her or not. On the one hand, she has the right to express her opinion (which many in the community shared) and speak out about things she thinks is wrong, and I don’t want to become an employer that pays attention to what employees are posting in their private lives. On the other hand, Organization A cared enough about it to call me and let me know it was happening, and it wasn’t very good judgement to post this publicly, let alone tag them in it.

    She is definitely known in the community as a representative of our organization, and even if people didn’t know she works here, it is listed on her social media profile. So her post can connect clearly back to us. Thoughts?

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