John McClain’s classic line from another classic Christmas movie, Die Hard 2, was the first thing that came to my mind after a story I read last week.
According to multiple reports, among them, this one from Evan Simko-Bednarski and Anna Sturla reporting at CNN, a police chief in Burlington, VT has resigned over an anonymous social media account.
And here’s the kicker. His acting replacement then lost her job less than 24 hours later for the same reason.
According to this statement from the City of Burlington, Police Chief No. 1 reported to the Mayor that Police Chief No. 1 had posted tweets from an anonymous Twitter account and that he had not been forthright with a reporter about those tweets. After a combination of administrative leave and FMLA, Police Chief No. 1 resigned. So the Mayor held a press conference to announce that Police Chief No. 2 would be the replacement. But according to the CNN report, “that announcement quickly unraveled”:
Soon after the news press conference, [Police Chief No. 2] told the mayor she had “occasionally operated a Facebook account under the name ‘Lori Spicer’ through which she made comments about and engaged citizens in discussion of Police Department policy and practice.”
As a result, she was replaced as acting chief.
According to this report from R.J. Johnson at IHeartRadio, the mayor confirmed that the new Acting Chief, Police Chief No, 3, has never engaged in any kind of “anonymous social media posting.” Whew!
Should your employees have burner accounts too?
If you’re the Philadelphia 76ers? No. But, there’s nothing illegal or even inherently wrong with having a social media burner account; i.e., a separate anonymous social media account. Just ask Mitt Romney a/k/a Pierre Delecto. However, whether your employees identify themselves on their social media accounts or hide behind pseudonyms, your rules still apply and they must abide by your social media policy 24/7.
So, while you’re reminding your workers about how their free speech rights may impact their employment status, consider flagging the responsibilities of having a social media burner account too.