SNL Scandal Highlights Social Media Issues

With fall officially here, the return of Saturday Night Live is right around the corner.  Two weeks ago, SNL announced that central Pennsylvania native and stand-up comedian Shane Gillis would be joining the show’s cast for the upcoming season.  Several days later, however, footage surfaced online of Gillis making anti-Asian and homophobic comments in his podcast.  This was particularly troubling, as SNL had hired its first Asian cast member (who is also gay) this season.  Although Gillis offered an apology to “anyone who’s actually offended” by his use of racial slurs, the show announced last week that it would be cutting ties with him.

This scandal highlights the perils of social media issues at work.  Many employees think that they cannot be disciplined at work for things that they say or do “off the clock,” especially comments or conduct on social media, but they are mistaken.  Another common misconception among employees and employers is that the First Amendment gives employees great latitude to speak their minds at work or online without consequence.  Unless the employer at issue is a public entity, the First Amendment simply has no place in the workplace.  Finally, although employers may wish to screen job applicants on social media while going through the hiring process, such practices can lead to the discovery of information that may lead to potential discrimination claims.

For any questions about this or any other labor and employment topic, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Hoffman Hlavac & Easterly.