When sharing photos of yourself on social media, how inappropriate must they be to have your employment terminated?
Even though Gemma Laird had photos from a lingerie photo shoot on her private Facebook profile, the very fact of their existence seems to have been enough for the school to dismiss her. But the story has once again sparked a national discussion around how social media is interfering with our work lives and is shining a light on double standards when it comes to sex.
Miss Laird, 21 years old and having only been in place as an apprentice teaching assistant for a week, was dismissed from her role in a County Durham primary school when a parent complained about the photos. Seemingly without investigation or too much thought, the head teacher dismissed Miss Laird, citing a variety of concerns from reputation to improper influence on the school’s impressionable pupils, some of whom were said to suffer from ‘low self-esteem’.
Although employees can generally be dismissed without recourse within the first two years of their employment – and apprenticeship agreements are likely to infer only limited enhanced rights – if the dismissal is related to an act of discrimination, it may still be actionable. The question here is, would a man have been treated the same way? With recent reports celebrating a ‘hot’ maths teacher (actually, an engineering lecturer at University College London) who is now an Armani model, it seems there may be double standards at play.
I joined Alfie and Charlie on the BBC Newcastle breakfast show on 31 March 2016 to discuss the story and offer some advice for employers and employees who have social media concerns. Click on the photo below for the interview (at 24:41) available in the UK on the iPlayer or click here (at 35.55) to hear my BBC Oxford interview from 4 April 2016.