A recent incident involving a Deloitte India employee has brought to light the potential consequences of expressing controversial views on social media platforms. The individual in question is Neerabh Mehrotra, former Associate Director of Risk Advisory at Deloitte India.
His employment was terminated after he expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler on his LinkedIn profile. Now, as a result, this incident serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible online behaviour, especially for professionals representing reputable organizations.
The Deloitte Employee’s Controversial LinkedIn Post
Mehrotra’s LinkedIn post, which praised Hitler’s leadership qualities and his impact on history, drew immediate attention and sparked outrage. The employee’s comments not only violated ethical boundaries but also exhibited a lack of sensitivity towards the atrocities committed during the Nazi regime.
Understandably, such sentiments ignited a public backlash and raised concerns about the employee’s judgment and the reputation of Deloitte, a renowned multinational consulting firm. As news of the employee’s LinkedIn post spread, Deloitte swiftly responded by terminating their employment.
The firm emphasized its commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and ethical standards, distancing itself from the employee’s viewpoints. Deloitte’s decisive action aimed to protect its reputation and demonstrate its intolerance towards any form of hate speech or endorsement of violence.
The incident also became trending on Twitter. An individual on Twitter under the username of @sandeep_PT expressed his disappointment by stating: “[…] Dear @Deloitte @Deloitteindia, congrats for such a workforce you nurture, you Nazi enablers. […]”.
Impact on Professional Reputation
Individuals who hold positions of influence or represent reputable organizations bear the responsibility of maintaining a positive image and ensuring their public statements align with the values of their employers. Significantly, in a digitally connected world where information can spread rapidly, expressing controversial or offensive views can damage one’s professional reputation irreparably.
Employers, in turn, are compelled to protect their brand integrity by taking swift action against employees whose actions or statements are against their values. The incident involving the Deloitte employee highlights the need for professionals to exercise caution and prudence when engaging in online activities, especially on public platforms like LinkedIn.
A Word of Caution to Employees
Tessa Harris, Employment Law Director at Redmans Solicitors, says employees represent the company even in day-to-day lives through social media or any behaviour outside work. She adds “The misuse of social media could amount to a misconduct offence resulting in a fair dismissal. What an employer is required to do when considering dismissal is to apply its mind to whether the employee’s conduct goes to the ‘employment relationship’ or will it affect the employee’s ability to do their job”.
Tribunals will not always agree when it comes to the misuse of social media. However, the general idea is to not express yourself in any way that causes harm to anyone’s reputation. Tessa tells us about another case, Game Retail Ltd v Mr C Laws, where an employee, during his own personal time on his personal Twitter account posted 28 offensive tweets containing abusive language. After his dismissal, he brought the case to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. While the tribunal did say the dismissal was unfair, the Employment Appeals Tribunal held that employees could express themselves in their own time as long as it does not, reasonably, infringe on their employment and/or is outside the work context.
In this case, since the employee had made the comments from a public account, it did offend the customers and staff of the company, making the dismissal fair. As we concluded this topic, Tessa pointed out that these cases are sensitive and there is no blanket catch-all decision. However, it is important to remember that “More and more people are expressing themselves on social media. So, the ramifications of any backlash from an employer can be significant.”