How did Cold Stone Creamery justify the firing of Denise Helms for a personal Facebook post?
A manager at Cold Stone Creamery, Ms. Helms responded to the Presidential election results by referring to the President with a racial epithet, further writing that he should be assassinated. (I guess she’s not a policy wonk)
Her reprehensible post reinforces the need for solid corporate social media guidelines. Imagine how many African-Americans (or anyone with a sense of propriety) wouldn’t be comfortable being served by Ms. Helms after reading her post. Imagine further if Cold Stone didn’t have a policy to protect themselves from such employee conduct.
Understandably Helms will not be charged for threatening the President. It’s evident from her interview and social actions that she lacks the mental capability to pose any danger to him. But her firing is an illustrative example of how a social media policy can protect an employer from employee behavior that is detrimental to their business.
One only has to take a look at the recent election to understand that the most immediate power of social media is to illuminate the sensational. From Donald Trump to Stacey Dash to Ted Nugent and Clint Eastwood’s chair, provocation trumped substance when it came to viral content. Frankly, the racist ice cream server is far more scintillating than anything else that Cold Stone has going on otherwise. It’s important for businesses to protect themselves and do so thoughtfully, with specificity, preferably advised by a lawyer.
There’s a pragmatic part of me that appreciates that Cold Stone protected its interests. But I also have an effusive feeling of happiness that this person was punished for publicly perpetuated irrational hatred. I’m not naive enough to think that there isn’t racism, sexism, homophobia or other irrational hatred in the world. I believe in freedom of speech and understand the slippery slope of restricting that. But social media publishing has consequence. This had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with intolerance, and in this particular situation I applaud Cold Stone Creamery for administering consequence. I also applaud customers for following up with Cold Stone to hold them accountable (and also hope they will reward their actions).
That said, I’m not sure that this wouldn’t be a gray area in different circumstances. What do you think? Is it right that this woman was fired for her Facebook post? In circumstances when a personal post could bring negative attention to an employer, should an employee’s job be imperiled?
@aprilrenae This employee is no longer w/the company & her disgraceful statements in no way reflects our views.
— Cold Stone Creamery (@ColdStone) November 8, 2012
You can see Ms. Helms justification of her post here – well worth a watch if you’re already not sufficiently upset.