A Reporter’s Suspension After Tweeting About Kobe Bryant’s Dismissed 2004 Rape Case, Offers a Teachable Moment in Workplace Ethics

by Evil HR Lady on January 27, 2020

Would you suspend an employee for a tweet?

What if that tweet was about rape allegations against Kobe Bryant, who just died?

What if the rest of the internet was focused on all his victories and the good he did, and your employee wanted to remind people that he wasn’t a saint?

That’s what happened to Washington Post reporter Felica Somnez who, in the midst of the sadness of Bryant’s death (and the deaths of eight other people), tweeted a link to a Daily Beast article, Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.

The Washington Post suspended Sonmez, who says she received over 10,000 nasty messages–including death threats. And I, along with most of the internet, believed it was purely because of the decision to post a negative story in a very sad time. The¬†Daily Mail¬†reports:

To keep reading, click here: A Reporter’s Suspension After Tweeting About Kobe Bryant’s Dismissed 2004 Rape Case, Offers a Teachable Moment in Workplace Ethics

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

jdgalt January 27, 2020 at 6:47 pm

In most cases I’d say absolutely no — a social media message is none of the company’s business unless you sent it from work or it’s about the company.

But an exception might be justified if the tweeter’s job is as a public representative of the company. And a news reporter qualifies.

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Wonder Aloud January 27, 2020 at 7:05 pm

What, on earth, have you received death threats for?

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Evil HR Lady January 27, 2020 at 9:48 pm

When I wrote about Megyn Kelly’s dress being inappropriate, it went viral and I got death threats–from both sides of the aisle.

When I wrote about how fat discrimination was a real thing, I got death threats.

People are weird.

I didn’t take any of them seriously–and obviously I’m still alive.

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Elizabeth West January 28, 2020 at 2:01 am

Death threats are the new “I don’t like what you wrote.”

Unfortunately, there are people out there who are unhinged and up to a point, you have to take them seriously.

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grannybunny January 29, 2020 at 1:37 pm

One of my pet peeves is how frequently people these days tend to politicize non-partisan issues. Please tell us that whether or not Megyn Kelly wears spaghetti straps on the job is not a partisan concern.

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Evil HR Lady January 29, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Well, it got picked up by Yahoo and apparently people who get their news from Yahoo are crazypants. By commenting on her spaghetti straps I was undermining democracy, supporting Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton, and responsible for World War II, retroactively.

Inc. used to allow comments and they had to have someone cleaning them out constantly for two days because it was NUTs.

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senatormeathooks January 31, 2020 at 4:11 pm

I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Yahoo is garbage, as are their users.

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Dan January 27, 2020 at 8:06 pm

EvilHRLady says that “suspension is a great tool.”

As a non-HR person, I hate them. Yes, it’s better than firing an employee as a knee jerk reaction, but there’s a lot of baggage associated with a suspension. I wouldn’t be pulling that one out of the tool box unless I absolutely had to.

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nic January 28, 2020 at 9:30 pm

I am an HR Pro and I think they are demeaning outside of an hourly non-exempt work environment that is non-clerical in nature. when youre dealing with adults you should treat them as such, document the behavior or performance and terminate if it doesn’t improve. But suspending someone is just now how we should be treating adults.

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Jen January 28, 2020 at 9:54 pm

I believe she was referring to suspensions being a good tool to use when conducting an investigation and not as a form of punishment for basic performance issues. I’ve used them before in sexual harassment investigations. Although we didn’t call them a suspension, it was just a leave of absence. It is better than firing someone without the facts or having the accused around to influence the investigation by talking to witnesses or doing anything to intimidate them or the accuser, but is always a possibility when someone has been accused of something as serious as sexual harassment or another serious or illegal form of misconduct. I agree that suspensions shouldn’t be used to penalize someone for not performing their jobs, but it can be good to use for an investigation in my experience. Once the investigation concludes the person is either released or reinstated with back pay. In the case above, we don’t know the exact reason for the suspension… however I would assume it was to consult with HR and their legal team to make sure that they can term her without a lot of risk. We all know that companies like to cave into the pressure of the internet mob.

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Kiara January 27, 2020 at 9:09 pm

I understand that a company doesn’t want full names of people revealed, however people issuing death threats deserve 0 anonymity or protection.

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Evil HR Lady January 27, 2020 at 9:51 pm

I agree with that, but I would think that–if the threats are credible–turning them over the law enforcement would be a better idea.

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Goober January 27, 2020 at 10:50 pm

And if it is credible enough to involve law enforcement, the cops would *greatly* prefer you not go public with it. Makes their job harder (or at least they know it can).

And if it’s not credible enough to involve law enforcement, it’s not worth the reputation damage to being known to dox people.

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Observer January 29, 2020 at 4:47 am

I disagree with that. It may not be a criminal matter, but if you are going to threaten someone and try to intimidate them into silence, you have no standing to complain about the hit to your reputation. It’s not the doxing that got you in trouble, it’s being a major class scum bag.

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grannybunny January 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm

I agree that employers can act if an employee’s social media posts negatively impact the organization. However, these are tweets, which are already public.

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saf January 28, 2020 at 4:08 pm

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