FireMe! – Who Wants to get Fired?

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 10.00.47 PM

The basic premise of FireMe! is to track an individual’s use of social media and how this use can affect job security, employability and professional reputation.

Our goal is to raise awareness about the danger of public online data.
Most people seem to be unaware that, on the internet, once said, you can never take it back.

All tweets shown here are publicly available on Twitter. So don’t blame us, instead get responsible.

If you’ve taken initiative and removed your reckless tweet, and are now annoyed by your presence on this website, contact us and we will immediately remove your account from FireMe!.

Out of curiosity, I plugged in my Twitter handle (@hrlori) to see what my chances were of getting fired measured by what I put out on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 5.51.30 PM

Okay, 4% isn’t bad, but I’m wondering what I said that would leave me even 4% vulnerable to losing a job. Or only an 96% chance of gaining employment or if any of this even matters.

Which leads to the question, will this tool really get someone fired? Per the Wall Street Journal interview below, the site’s founders certainly hope not.

And as Sarah Perez stated in her article regarding this subject,

But if you have a moment of poor judgement or, god forbid, humanity, on Twitter or Facebook, and it then blows up in your face, it’s more likely there’s a person or persons involved in your outing, too. (Or you’re just really, really stupid.)

Either way, you can’t blame some creepy website on the Internet for the exposure.

True that. Although I’m pretty sure FireMe! will be used by recruiters and potential employers in order to suss out candidates.

It’s simple enough. Don’t put it out there if you don’t want it used against you.

SendGrid and Playhaven – Fustercluck All Around

So there’s this breaking news about SendGrid and their recent termination of an employee. According to their press release:

Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive.

Okay – the backstory. Adria Richard, who was the Evangelist for SendGrid, evidently took offense to “dongle”comments made by two PlayHaven developers who were sitting behind her at PyCon and tweeted her sentiments out to the world:

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 5.30.38 PM

As a result, at least one of the above referenced engineers was fired from his job. According to PlayHaven’s press release:

PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honorable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go. We value and protect the privacy of our employees, both past and present, and we will not comment on all the factors that contributed to our parting ways.

The PlayHaven termination then set off a flurry Twitter threats directed towards Ms. Richards, who again took to Twitter to share her feelings.

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 5.48.08 PM

Which leads us back to the need for SendGrid’s press release.

Needless to say, the masses are not happy. SendGrid was the subject of a DDOS attack, #teamadria is popping up all over the place and just as many people are supporting the guy who was fired from PlayHaven. Via Atlantic Wire

One of the men in that photo ended up getting fired for his “dongle” joke. Though, he claims, “the sexual context was applied by Adria,” with regards to the “forking” jab. Since a certain type Internet crowd hates the idea of losing anonymity at the expense of sexist remarks — creepshots, anyone? — hackers shut down her employer’s website. As a result and for similar reasons, SendGrid started losing some customers, like one person who tweeted: “Canceled my accout with @sendgrid today. I cannot do business with someone who supports a woman who gets a father fired over a joke #freedom.” In addition, Richards also received a barrage of threats on Twitter. All of that seems to have resulted in the termination of Richards.

So did each company do the right thing?

If you’re a stickler for rules, then yes, both Ms. Richards and the PlayHaven developer should have been taken to task for representing their companies in questionable light – she for stating that her company supported her and he for making questionable (at best) statements while wearing a company shirt at a conference.

But are these really terminable offenses? Of course they are. California, where both companies are based, is an at-will state, meaning that either employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship for any reason, with or without notice, so long as no civil rights are violated.

But was termination warranted in either case, on the surface, probably not. But, unless you happen to work in HR for both companies, none of us are privvy to either of the employees’ personnel files. Perhaps there were previous incidents that contributed to the respective terminations.

We’ll never know. And that’s okay. Because personnel files are private and they should stay that way.

Lochner v New York – A Wonderful Decision?

With the end of Senator Rand Paul‘s filibuster comes the questions. Mine is about his reference to Lochner v New York being a “wonderful” decision.

You get to the Lochner case. The Lochner case is in 1905. The majority rules 5-4 that the right to make a contract is part of your due process. Someone cannot deprive you of determining how long your working hours are without due process. So President Obama’s a big opponent to this, but I would ask him — among the other things I’m asking him today — to rethink the Lochner case. . . . I think it’s a wonderful decision.

This is puzzling to say the least. While Lochner did deal with Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment, the case itself was about the government being able to limit workers hours in private industry.

Joseph Lochner, a baker in Utica New York was consistently requiring that his employees work more than 60 hours a week, which was considered to be a risk to his workers’ health, for which he was cited and fined. Mr. Lochner appealed his conviction twice but the State of New York upheld the decision each time. The case was then brought to the Supreme Court and in a vote of 5-4, the Court issued the following decision:

The court must determine whether the legislation is a fair, reasonable and appropriate exercise of the police power of the State, or an unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right of the individual to enter into a contract related to his business.

In other words, the Court, seemingly concerned about the violation of Due Process, had given Lochner the right to require his employees to work whatever hours he deemed fit without the “police power of the State” without concern for the health of his workers. This was the start of an era. The era finally came to a close with the determination of West Coast Hotel v Parrish in 1937. This was the groundbreaking case that allowed the State to impose minimum wage regulations on private employers, without violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the very foundation upon which Lochner was decided.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, ruled that the minimum wage law did not violate the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and Parrish was entitled to damages. The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause provides that no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” West Coast Hotel alleged that because the minimum wage law prevented employers and employees from freely negotiating wages, it restrained “liberty” of contract without due process of the law…

The Court next ruled that the minimum wage law did not violate “procedural” due process because it was a “reasonable,” not arbitrary, regulation. Though it interfered with contractual freedoms between “adults,” the Court held that it was now reasonable — given changing social and economic conditions — for governments to set a floor under which wage levels could not drop. Ultimately, the Court held that the minimum wage law was constitutional because it reasonably regulated contracts to protect the health and welfare of workers.

Okay, so back to Senator Paul. (via Think Progress):

Lochner was decided in 1905, and, while Paul is correct that the Lochner Era justices very occasionally struck down discriminatory laws, Jim Crow was still very much alive when Lochner was overruled in the 1930s. The Supreme Court decision that did the most to eradicate Jim Crow — Brown v. Board of Education — rested on the Constitution’s guarantee that no person shall be denied the “the equal protection of the laws,” not on some fabricated right to contract. And Brown alone was insufficient to overcome the campaign of “massive resistance” segregationists mounted in defense of Jim Crow.

In my opinion, Lochner was a horrendous decision. And even though we might bitch and moan about wage and hour administration, as HR, we’re in a much better place without Lochner than we would have been with it.

See Senator Paul in action here:

Heineken – The Candidate

“Standard questions. Prepared answers. If job interviews are all the same, how to find the right talent among 1734 applicants?”

Good question. There are many creative ways to recruit candidates, but this one by the Dutch beer company, Heineken, definitely stands out. Using a combination of crowdsourcing along with some odd interview situations, you get something that looks a little like this:

Well done.

Applebee’s Employee and Posted Receipts


By now, you probably all heard about the Applebee’s waitress who received the interesting tip above, posted the offending receipt on Reddit (in the atheism area) and was subsequently fired from her job.

It began Jan. 25 when a customer who described herself on the receipt as a pastor shared appetizers with eight or nine friends at an Applebee’s in south St. Louis. Applebee’s spokesman Dan Smith said Friday that the group was large enough that an automatic 18 percent tip was added to the bill.

The full cost for the table was $34.93, including the tip, which Smith said the customer paid despite the comment.

If the waitress for the table was bothered, she didn’t show it. But another waitress took a picture of the receipt and posted it Tuesday on Reddit, adding her own response: “I’m sure Jesus will pay for my rent and groceries.”

Needles to say, this caused quite a stir among the internets. So much so, Applebee’s took action and fired the waitress for violation of the customer’s privacy.

Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.

The Pastor has since apologized for the comment, although it is being alleged that she wanted the entire staff fired. The waitress said it was all lighthearted and didn’t mean anything by posting it.

In other words, it’s all fun and games until someone loses their job.

Normally, I would say that the employee violated company policy by posting the receipt online, if the policy had been made known. But of course it can’t be that simple. Via Gawker:

Speaking with Consumerist yesterday, Welch said she checked the employee handbook to make sure she “didn’t break any specific guidelines.”

But in its statement, Applebee’s disputes this, saying Welch violated the company’s social media policy, which states: “Employees must honor the privacy rights of APPLEBEE’s and its employees by seeking permission before writing about or displaying internal APPLEBEE’S happenings that might be considered to be a breach of privacy and confidentiality.”

The policy does not specifically refer to receipts, only to “photographs, video, or audio” of employees, customers, suppliers, agents, or competitors. Additionally, “permission” is defined as “written approval from the Vice President of Operations.”

The punishment for violating this policy is “disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.”

Now that’s pretty clear, but what’s notable is that other employees have posted receipts and other customer information in the past without being terminated. Employee policies need to be enforced equally. A failure to do so can render the policy null and void. Or at least create a PR (and perhaps an HR) nightmare.

HIRE BACK Chelsea, a Facebook group with 4,000 likes and climbing, takes serious issue with Applebee’s’ claim that “disregard for an important policy” got Welch fired, pointing out at least two instances where an Applebee’s in St. Louis reportedly owned by the same franchisee posted customer receipts on its own Facebook page…[below]


It is also worth noting that at least one of these two receipts has since been mysteriously scrubbed from the restaurant’s Facebook.

Now the argument can be made that in each situation, the guest gave at least implicit permission to post his/her respective personal information (including Conan O’Brien), but its not made clear that permission has been given or that the Vice President of Operations actually gave his/her approval as defined in the policy.

I’m not taking sides here – I have no horse in the race. Last I checked, Missouri was an at-will state, meaning that the Company and/or employee can sever the employment relationship at any time for any reason, so long as it doesn’t violate protected rights. However, the company could have saved themselves a great deal of grief if they had investigated the how fairly the application of the policy was enforced.

And while they were at it, perhaps they should have also investigated the “religion” aspect of the situation (Pastor vs. Atheism) before jumping to the employee’s immediate dismissal.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. I’ll keep updating as more comes in.

RIF’d HMV Employee Commandeers Twitter Feed

It’s always best practice to have an exit procedure for all employees, especially for those who have access to your social media accounts. HMV, a beleagured UK company that is currently under the administrators at Deloitte, LLP found out the hard way.

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 5.49.20 PM

This has gotten a great deal of press today, so no need to bore with the details. Needless to say, the company regained control over their Twitter feed, deleted the above Tweets and is now offering a 25% discount upon purchase.

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 5.57.46 PM

I’m sorry to say it, but this could have easily been avoided.

Lesson learned?

Hiring Mistakes to Avoid at a Startup

Let’s face it, startups don’t need HR in its early stages. Well, maybe they need HR, but they don’t usually have someone to do what HR does – help to recruit, hire and onboard new staff. Which leaves it to the founding members to do all of the above in between coding, marketing and raising capital.

When I was consulting for a small startup, one of the founders said to me that they didn’t need offer letters because they knew everyone they were hiring. And while I understood why he felt that way, I suggested it might be better to have the hiring and on-boarding documentation in place for when they needed to start hiring strangers.

Tech Cocktail has a great list of what to do and what to avoid when hiring your team. Here’s one.

Your startup may be near and dear to your heart, but that doesn’t mean you should only trust friends and former colleagues to help you get it off the ground. While a friend may fit your company culture, they may also expect to be treated differently than other employees. It’s important to focus on hiring the best person for both the job and the culture–you’ll risk hurting morale and productivity otherwise.

Startup Champ also points out a very basic, but very important, concept:

Starting a business is like building a house. It takes specific elements to make the house sturdy from the ground up. So too, it takes good people to make a business strong. Having the foundation of a great team should be your priority as a business owner. Many start-ups business leaders are faced with the same question. How can you know that the people you are considering for a place by your side are the right individuals for the job, and better yet, that they will fit well as part of your team?

Hiring is always a crapshoot. Sometimes the company hires a rock star, sometimes a dud. Sometimes that rock start wants to leave and the dud wants to stay. It’s a slippery business, but this generation of startups do have the benefit of those who came before.

Anyone remember

‘nuf said.

[Photo Credit: Techi]