Do Not Let Your Zoom Behavior #Cancel Your Job
By Broderick C. Dunn
Americans have been dealing with the impact of the COVID19 pandemic for over a year now. Home offices, remote workspaces and virtual meetings via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex and Google Meet are now a part of everyday life. We have seen famous people caught up in Zoom mishaps of a sexual nature (we’re looking at you Jeffrey Toobin) and we have seen not so famous people inadvertently expose their coworkers to intimate details of their lives in virtual spaces. As people get comfortable with working and socializing virtually, many employers are forced to confront a familiar issue: Racism.
On March 11, 2021, Matt Rowan, used racial slurs during a live broadcast of the Oklahoma 6A state basketball tournament. While the broadcast paused for the playing of the National Anthem, Rowan could be heard off camera mumbling to his co-broadcaster:
“They’re kneeling? F*cking N*ggers! I hope Norman gets their ass kicked. F*ck them. I hope they lose. Come on, Midwest City—they’re gonna kneel like that? Hell no.”
Rowan, a diabetic, blamed spiking blood sugar for his outburst. The school districts in question are not using Rowan’s company to broadcast future games.
On February 21, 2021, two Georgetown University Law Center Professors, Sandra Sellers and David Batson, taught a negotiations class which was broadcast on Zoom and recorded. After class concluded and all of the students left the Zoom, Sellers and Batson had a conversation which they did not realize was being recorded. Sellers told Batson:
“I hate to say this. I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks. Happens almost every semester. And its like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You get some really good ones, but there are usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.”
Georgetown terminated Sellers and Batson submitted his resignation.
Companies need to make sure that their employees are properly trained. We should not have to reiterate this in 2021, but employees should know that racist conversations should never occur in the workplace. Period. Even if employees find it hard not to engage in hate speech, they should be technologically savvy enough not to engage in such speech while being recorded. In a virtual workplace, employees need to assume that someone is always listening or watching. If you would be uncomfortable having your comments to a co-worker read aloud during a deposition or in print on the front page of the Washington Post, simply do not make them.
Broderick C. Dunn is a partner at Cook Craig & Francuzenko, PLLC. He focuses his practice on business and employment litigation. Follow him on Twitter @broderick_dunn and connect with him on LinkedIn @https://www.linkedin.com/in/broderickdunn.