Social Media and a Hostile Office

Can Social Media Contribute to a Hostile Office?

Widespread social media use has significantly impacted how we understand harassment and hostile work environments. Social media websites have provided a new opportunity for self-expression, including negative expressions of harassment and discrimination.

Former hostile work environment cases that have been brought up include: setting up a Facebook group to shame a colleague; posting inappropriate photos of a colleague; and sending repeated, uninvited Facebook chats. One way to better protect a company from social media harassment claims is to implement a coherent social media policy.

A social media policy can do more than prevent harassment between colleagues. Find out what other useful things you can address with this Social Media Policy Checklist. Also, remind management that negative behavior is the same whether it took place online or offline. Deal with social media harassment the same way you deal with all other harassment.

Case Study: Benny Boyd Auto Group

In 2015, Benny Boyd Auto Group was found guilty of discriminating against a disabled employee and subjecting him to a hostile environment at work. Five years earlier, in December 2010, Randall Hurst was offered a position as General Manager of the Benny Boyd dealership in Lubbock, Texas.

In addition to an impressive salary, the company promised Hurst that he would receive a partnership role. As a partner, Hurst would have a stake in the store and receive additional compensation for good performance.

Randall Hurst’s Diagnosis
Nearly six months later, in May of 2011, Randall Hurst was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and his medical condition was disclosed to upper management. Hurst carried on working with the disease for about a year, until March 2012, when he began asking about the promise to be a partner. He was met with hostile comments about his disability and threats about his future with the company. His supervisor allegedly asked:

Are you a cripple?

And warned:

You’re on your last quarter, buddy, since you have MS.

Hurst held on until November 2012 when he resigned.

After the Resignation:
Hurst informed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the harassment, denial of partnership, and constructive discharge. After investigating, the EEOC made a claim against Benny Boyd Auto Group for disability discrimination.

In February 2015, Hurst won the settlement.
The dealership in Lubbock is no longer in business and has been removed from the company website. Before returning to business in the area (if they ever do), the company must:

  1. Modify its anti-harassment policy to include disability discrimination
  2. Provide training on disability discrimination laws
  3. Post a formal notice prohibiting disability discrimination in the workplace