How much should your behaviour outside of work impact your work life? That’s a question we’re constantly grappling with here at Workopolis.

So, the case of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry is particularly interesting to us.

McHenry is the ESPN reporter who was caught on camera nastily berating an impound lot employee in a rant that included disparaging remarks about the employee’s personal appearance and hurling classist insults about the woman’s station in life and presumed education level.

McHenry had reportedly left her car in a restaurant parking lot overnight, despite a sign that said “Please do not leave your car here overnight,” and returned to find it had been towed.

The video, released by the impound company, is possibly edited so that only McHenry’s comments are heard and not those of the attendant but McHenry is pretty steamed and takes it out on the employee by threatening to sue, among other things.

You can watch the video here (Warning: NSFW language). Her comments include:

“I’m on the news, sweetheart. I will [bleeping] sue this place.” (I’m not sure what the connection between those two statements is.)

“I’m on television and you’re in a [bleeping] trailer, honey.”

“Lose some weight, baby girl.”

So, lots of terms of endearment there – sweetheart, honey, baby girl. She sounds nice. What’s the trouble?


Anyway, after the video was released it went viral and McHenry was suspended for a week. Now the social media mobs are reportedly calling for her head on a platter (as usual. Is anything as contagious as outrage?), or, failing that, her dismissal from the sports network. McHenry has since apologized and it remains to be seen how this will play out.

It’s worth noting that McHenry was aware of the camera and apparently unconcerned.

Would it be appropriate for McHenry to lose her job over the incident? Maybe. One colleague of mine argues that everyone gets mad when their car gets towed, and her behaviour at the lot has nothing to do with her ability as a sports reporter. But, I would argue that she is a face of the ESPN brand and they have a right to choose with whom they wish to associate their brand.

Would it be different if she was not publicly associated with an organization? Like, if a back end developer did something similar, should that employee face repercussions from their employer for their behaviour on their own time? What if the person announced where they worked?

I know of one guy who called into a radio station and identified himself as “So and so from such and such a company” before launching into a homophobic tirade. He lost his job.

Or what if the video went viral and their place of employment became public through the media?

I’m still inclined to think the company has a right to decide who they want to work with. One tirade might not be indicative of a person’s overall personality. Or it might. It would depend on the individual. But I still think the organization has the right to make that call.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. But these are all things that will be more and more of concern as everything we do is increasingly played out on the world stage. It’s becoming the norm for employers to look at social media profiles and make decisions based on what they see. We should all try to remember this and behave accordingly, which isn’t always easy (see: me flipping the bird at a car that cut me off while trying to cross the street in front of my office building).

The lesson here, as usual, is to always, always be on your best behaviour. You never know who’s watching to filming or recording.

(Image: Twitter @brittmchenry)