Where do employers look once the interview is over?
Miss Miller is a great teacher. Liked by her pupils and respected by her colleagues. Fresh out of teacher training, her lessons incorporate the latest ideas and her methods of engaging her class are innovative. The Principal was impressed when she first applied for the role. Her CV contained a broad mix of sporting achievements, charity endeavours and debating successes. Her upper second class degree from a good university had secured her an interview and while so many of her peers tried to get higher paid jobs in the City, her decision to go into teaching had been applauded by her lecturers and her references for the job were strong. Her vocational teacher training had gone without a hitch and she was settling in well to her first real job.
Alex Miller had a good fan base amongst her pupils and as with all role models in today’s society her students had started to delve a little deeper to find out a bit more about their favourite teacher. Logging on to Facebook they quickly found her personal profile. It was set to public so presumably nothing to hide? Like all good social media campaigns, the pictures and stories that she had posted on her page spread quickly amongst the student group, taking little time to fall into view of a couple of staff members and from there not long until the school Principal and governors were reviewing the intimate details of Alex’s lifestyle.
Her comments about needing to unwind after a hard day at work were fine. Her admiration for the latest reality TV show not a problem. The pictures of her, posted and tagged by a friend, holding what could be a marijuana cigarette less easily overlooked. The pictures taken by her with her own smartphone of her in her underwear now beginning to cause major problems. Not knowing where the boundaries of privacy ended and the disrepute threatened to their school started, the governors decided to suspend Alex with immediate effect.
The circumstance described above are entirely fictional, but they bear a striking resemblance to the suspension last week of Carly McKinney, a high school teacher in Colorado. Her raunchy pictures and open views on drug taking had been tweeted by a “friend” on a twitter account that she claimed to have no control over.
It’s not clear whether Ms McKinney broke any laws. She claimed not to have taken drugs onto the school’s campus (cannabis for personal use not being an offence in Colorado) so has her suspension been fair? Were her employers right to mix professional with personal and consider her extra-curricular activity to have any effect on her job?
Where criminal activity is clear or defined lines of acceptable conduct have been crossed, an employer would be entirely within their rights to dismiss an employee. Even an unarguable breach of contract would justify such action. However, the law is not yet clear on whether posting your personal life on your social media profiles is tantamount to disciplinary behaviour or dismissal. What is clear is that if the information is out there in the public domain, your employers, colleagues, pupils and customers will be able to see it. If you’d rather not have your dirty, or even pretty, laundry aired in public, keep it private.