What if your employee sent hateful tweets?

It could happen to you and your business. It happened to the noted baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, who had the satisfaction of seeing justice done to two social media miscreants.

Since you probably had your head down taking care of business you might have missed this, and that’s too bad, because while the issue is something I hope you will never be forced to deal with, it is a situation you should think hard about so you’ll know how to respond..

A little background: Curt Schilling is a former pitcher (he played in six All-Star games, pitched for three World Series winners, and was a Series MVP) who tried entrepreneurship (the video game company he founded failed), and is a baseball analyst and announcer for ESPN. In short, high-profile.

Recently his daughter was accepted to Salve Regina University. Like many a proud father, Schilling shared his excitement with his Twitter followers.

Nothing wrong with that; if you can’t be proud of your kids, what can you be proud of?

You can also probably guess what happened. Some people tweeted things like, “Can’t wait to date her!” Others tweeted, “Looking forward to partying with her!”

But then it got ugly.

A flood of sexual tweets followed, quickly moving past innuendo and into graphic, hateful, “hard to imagine people think this kind of stuff, much less share it with the world” territory, suggestions of violence, rape… (I won’t repeat them here, but if you’re curious you can check out a sampling on Curt’s blog. Or take my word for how disturbing they are, and that’s coming from a guy who played sports and worked on farms and factory floors … I’ve heard a lot.)

If that happened to you and your daughter, what do you do? Most of us would get mad, want to get even … but eventually just shake our heads and wish the world were a better place.

Schilling did something about it. He figured out who two tweeters were and outed them.

One was a student whose school subsequently suspended him pending a conduct hearing, saying, “The Twitter comments posted by this student are unacceptable and clearly violate the standards of conduct that are expected of all Brookdale students.”

The other lost his job as a part-time ticket seller for the New York Yankees; as a Yankee spokesman said, “We have zero tolerance for anything like this. We’ve terminated him.”

Both seem like appropriate responses by those organizations.

But they are questions you might someday have to answer. What would you do if one of them had been your employee?

And would it matter if his tweet was from his personal account? And if he posted it when he was at home and not at work?

Those are good questions since there are different standards for conduct at work and outside of work. (While you have the right to prohibit alcohol in your office, you don’t have the right to stop employees from having a few drinks over the weekend.) It’s problematic to tell employees what they can and cannot do, or say, on their own time.

On the other hand, that employee’s behavior could reflect badly on your company and your brand. Can you afford the damage to your reputation by an employee whose social media behavior is that hateful?

A tough question to answer.

Think about it now, and you’ll know what to do if the worst does happen. Hope it never does—but it’s much better to be prepared.

A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.


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