British pharmaceutical firm GSK swiftly sacked a worker after he was videotaped yelling homophobic slurs and acting disorderly while being kicked off a flight, a series of events that employment attorneys said company leaders can learn from.
A video posted on social media on Aug. 31 showed a man verbally mistreating flight staff and repeatedly yelling a homophobic slur as he was being removed from a grounded plane, all before he identified himself in the recording as a chemical engineer for GSK. On Friday, the pharmaceutical company announced it had investigated the situation and parted ways with the unruly passenger.
Incidents like this — in which a worker's inappropriate behavior outside the office makes its way to their employer's attention — are on the rise, and experts said employers would be wise to take notes on the situation and GSK's swift response. …
Take the Opportunity to Make a Statement
Instead of allowing the employee's behavior to tarnish the company's reputation, Epstein Becker Green member Carter DeLorme, who represents employers, pointed out that GSK actually reinforced its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with its reaction to the incident.
"I think GSK had a quality statement, not just disparaging the action [but] also tying it back into their DEI programming," DeLorme said. …
DeLorme said the company's decision to plug its DEI initiatives was a smart move. By indicating that the employee was sacked because he demonstrated values that don't jibe with the company's, GSK was able to use the situation to tout its own messaging, DeLorme said.
"They seized the opportunity to distinguish this gentleman's bad behavior from their company culture," he said. "Instead of, we're going to terminate you for bad behavior, they said, we're terminating you because your values are inconsistent with our DEI values."
"It was an opportunity GSK seized to make a statement," he said.
Act Reasonably but Quickly …
In general, Epstein Becker's DeLorme said company investigations into this kind of malfeasance should be fast, and he lauded GSK's speedy decision making.
"This was a very clear-cut case, so it was easy for GSK to take a look at the evidence that was readily available and make a swift decision," he added. "But even in more nuanced circumstances, the decision to terminate, suspend or discipline in some other fashion should be done relatively quickly."