Obscene Facebook photos and workplace consequences

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The web was abuzz with outrage following the posting of an ill-conceived photo by two women last week – nothing new in the online world, but when the women were suspended from their work by their employer, the plot thickened.

The photo in question depicts Lindsey Stone, a worker at non-profit organisation LIFE, bending beside a sign which calls for ‘silence and respect’ whilst in the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. Taken by her friend and co-worker Jamie Schuh, the women were placed on unpaid leave by their employer after they posted the photo on Facebook, and it quickly garnered condemnation.

A 'Fire Lindsey Stone' Facebook page was set up by detractors and soon attracted more than 14,000 likes. While the photo and comments were soon removed by Stone, Gawker published a screen shot of Stone's response to the negative comments on her page. “Whoa whoa whoa ... wait," Stone wrote on October 20, according to the screen shot. “This is just us, being the douchebags that we are, challenging authority in general ... OBVIOUSLY we meant NO disrespect to people that serve or have served our country.”

In the The Boston Herald the women had the following apology published:

“We also sincerely apologise to LIFE, Inc. It is an amazing organisation that provides invaluable services to adults with learning and developmental disabilities. We are beyond remorseful that our actions have caused them such undue public scrutiny. The disrespect implied by our picture has nothing at all to do with LIFE's mission statement or values. We regret having caused any suffering to the staff members, residents, families and friends...,” the excerpt read.

In media commentary about the incident, the women were identified as employees of LIFE, and their actions were perceived as reflecting poorly on the organisation.

  • Tony Griffiths on 26/11/2012 4:31:31 PM

    In a land where civil liberties are fought for and (too often) died for, it is incredible the number of people who react quickly and viciously to displays of civil liberty. Free speech then becomes quite costly.
    By their own admission the 2 women are indeed “douche bags”. The photo is mildly clever with the direct contradiction of the words on the sign, but if you are going to make a statement at least back it up with your opinions. Are you protesting the perversity of war or lack of respect for the victims of war or the gagging of those that speak out against war? Alas no, just douche bags, which isn’t against the law. Now, I'm no lawyer but I wouldn’t mind betting that real lawyers would line up around the block to represent these 2 if they are sacked as a result of their idiocy.
    If they purported to represent their employer that would be one thing but I don’t see any overt link between them the photo and LIFE. If in the companies shoes I would address their behaviour only because it has been reported in the paper, and remind them of the workplace code of conduct as it applies to activities that bring the company into disrepute, issue a warning and stop talking about it.

  • Patrick McInerney on 26/11/2012 5:01:34 PM

    A few years ago, this wouldn't have rated a mention. Anywhere. Ever. Now, suddenly it's headline news. Disrespectful? Hmmm, are we sure? Inappropriate? Really? That someone took a photo of a person bending over to tie a shoelace or pick something off the ground or engaging in some other act of thoughtlessness next to a sign? Has the world suddenly become such a boring and mundane place that the media has to make celebrities out of anyone for doing nothing? Where do I sign up, and can I get a reality TV series and a write up in the gossip mags to go with that?

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