Proper employee exiting processes cannot be overlooked. Last week, a group of men affiliated with an extreme right-wing movement verbally assaulted Labor Senator, Sam Dastyari, in a Melbourne pub. The men surrounded Dastyari, called him a “terrorist” and told him “to return to Iran”. A video filmed by one of the men and posted to the Facebook page of a far-right group, depicts the men yelling, “You Terrorist, you little monkey”. The video also shows one of the men, Neil Erickson, assaulting Dastyari wearing a work shirt with the company name ‘Toll’ embroidered on the sleeve.

Toll Holdings has recently released a statement that they “are currently investigating the matter and whether any of the individuals involved are currently employed by Toll”. As it turns out, Erikson was an ex-employee of Toll, but had been using his old uniform for some “other job”. Nonetheless, his actions had the effect of associating himself with Toll, much to their regret.

The video and images of Erikson attacking Dastyari in the Toll shirt have circulated the internet and newspapers for the past few days. Attempts by Toll to distance themselves from the incident are inhibited when they’re logo is repeatedly featured under headlines containing variations of the word “racism”. It’s easy to sympathise with Toll. So how can you avoid a situation like this?

Proper Employee Exiting

When an employee transitions from your company, it is critical that they are properly exited from the company. Ensure that before an employee leaves they hand back all company equipment, including uniforms. Even if the employee no longer works for you, if they are wearing a uniform displaying your business name, the public are more likely to associate them with your brand.

After claiming he used the Toll shirt “for his other job”, Erikson went on to further defend his actions claiming that he believed in free speech. But is this reputation damaging behaviour actually allowed in Australia?

Limited Free Speech

Contrary to Mr. Erikson’s beliefs, the Australian Constitution does not protect the right to freedom of speech or freedom of expression. The only exception applies our election candidates during an election period. However, a recent high court case including Bob Brown has slightly extended the notion of political protests. This means employees can be held accountable and persecuted for things they say during or outside of work hours.

Zero Tolerance Policy

Any form of communication inciting racial hatred, including offence or humiliation due to race, is illegal in Australia. The events that unfolded clearly indicated racial hatred directed at Sam Dastyari. Even though Erikson was not currently employed at Toll, the brand damage is the same for the company. Seeing as any form of racial hatred is a crime in this country, businesses should enforce a zero-tolerance policy for employees with any inclination of discrimination towards any group. Employers should seek to distance themselves from any employees who exhibit racist tendencies, to avoid brand damage like Toll has just experienced. This goes for the recruitment process also. The events that unfolded indicate the importance of rigid exiting processes for employees to protect your brand!

The expression of racist sentiments in public forum is an increasing problem, both abroad and in Australia. From the events that unfolded in Charlottesville, U.S.A. to the recent incident involving a respected Australian senator, Sam Dastyari. As covered in our recent article, it is important to remember that hate speech and free speech are not protected in this country. Therefore, it is important to know your rights and obligations as an employer to protect both current and past employees actions affecting your brand.

For HR advice on how to appropriately transition employees out of your business, HR Assured has a 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service to accompany step-by-step workflows on our cloud-based platform. Contact us today for a free consultation.