John Galliano sacking: knee-jerk or necessary?

Galliano was caught on tape last week talking about his “love” for Adolf Hitler and was arrested in a bar in Paris. French prosecutors have confirmed that they plan to put Galliano on trial.

The scandal raises the question: do employers have the right to take action on misconduct outside of the workplace?

“Galliano is the creative face of Dior. His name is inextricably entwined with theirs and the fashion house has been placed in a very difficult position,” comments Kate Russell (aka “The UK’s HR Headmistress”), founder of Russell HR Consulting. “Dior has to be seen to be taking the matter seriously.”

However, Russell says that bosses don’t have the right to automatically dismiss employees for misconduct – even serious misconduct – outside of work. “If the employers includes a provision in the employment contract which allows the company to take disciplinary action if the employee brings it into disrepute, then the boss can swing the axe. But the employer has to consider whether the actions were sufficient to bring the company into disrepute – and take all the facts into account.”

There are grey areas. For example, what happens when an employee writes unpleasant things about a colleague on Facebook while at home and in their own time? “If the colleague discovers the remarks and tension develops between the two employees, the employer has to do something about it,” says Russell. “This type of more minor situation can sometimes be more difficult to resolve than the cases of potential gross misconduct.”

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