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If policies don’t stop employees, the public will

Like it or not, employers have an extra set of eyes and ears watching their employees

By Todd Humber

In the Feb. 22, 2010, issue of Canadian HR Reporter we ran a photo on the cover of Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) ticket collector sleeping in his booth under the headline of “Controversial catnap.”

The photo was snapped by Jason Wieler on his iPhone and it instantly went viral.

Hot on the heels of that incident, another passenger filmed a TTC bus driver taking an unscheduled seven-minute break at a coffee shop, leaving the bus idling and passengers waiting.

It seems that a week doesn’t go by without some photo or video surfacing of employees behaving badly. One could argue this isn’t surprising, given the proliferation of smartphones with built-in photo and video capability.

Some are humorous, some are annoying and others are downright disgusting. Some of them cause minor embarrassment for the person involved, while others are a massive PR headache for organizations.

And not all of the photos are taken by the public. Too many workers are more than happy to document their own misdeeds. Back in the summer, a photo appeared of a Burger King employee in Cleveland standing on top of a couple of lettuce bins. It was posted online with the cutline, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King.” The worker in the photo posted that lovely shot and penned the caption.

In the most recent example, a worker at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was disciplined for watching porn on the job. This is, unfortunately, an all too common problem for employers to deal with — many organizations use filtering software or tracking software to either prevent or track employees who are misusing computers.

But it wasn’t IT or an HR policy that made the bust. Instead, it was a visitor to the airport who took a video of a “male worker… at a cluttered desk, allegedly viewing pornography on a laptop at an unnamed location in Terminal 3,” according to the Toronto Star.

Like it or not, employers have an extra set of eyes and ears out there keeping an eye on employees — the public.
Images of employees breaking the rules, and even the law, make for great headlines in the daily news.

Some employees working in public either seem unaware, or don’t care, that everything they’re doing may be recorded and it may end up on YouTube.

That’s a PR headache no organization wants. Employers might want to underscore, to all employees working in view of the public, that — to borrow some lyrics from Sting — “every breath they take, every step they take and every move they make” could be captured on film and posted for the world to see.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at 

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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