A window cleaner who shared the location of rapper Akwasi’s new home in a Facebook group with fellow window cleaners has been suspended by his employer. The artist, who recently made headlines for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, shared screenshots of the window cleaner’s post in disbelief. He claims to feel threatened.
“Mr Akwasi has it so bad in the Netherlands. You should feel sorry for him. But I have to buy a house of 500,000 euros that I have to deliver today,” was the message that has since been removed, which was accompanied by a photo of the new house of the 32-year-old artist.
The reactions to the message were not out of the air: people expressed their dislike for the rapper, but also used much more threatening language. “Put a hand grenade on the door” and “set the house on fire,” some wrote.
On social media, Akwasi’s supporters have now called for the window cleaner to be fired. Putting the man on hold seems in any case a prelude to this. The question now is whether it will come to that and, above all, whether it can come to that.
Business Insider asked employment law attorney Maarten van Gelderen of Van Gelderen Employment Lawyers about the possible consequences for this employee.
Do you have to hold back online?
Many people invoke their ‘freedom of expression’ when they are held accountable for their statements. Lawyer Maarten van Gelderen says that the window cleaner would probably want to invoke that freedom, but that there is more at play. “There is also such a thing as good employeeship and the question is whether this window cleaner has met that.”
According to Van Gelderen, an employer can in any case expect an employee to deal confidentially with things he encounters at work. “This man has definitely crossed the line of what is acceptable.”
The fact that the window cleaner comes to people’s homes as a result of his profession will therefore certainly be taken into account in further steps. “Someone who shares data or, for example, shares photos of ‘look at how he lives with it’, that is simply not the intention”, Van Gelderen outlines. “What this man has shared touches the core of his profession. shares is directly linked to his profession.”
So if you share something online that your employer should expect you to treat confidentially, your boss certainly has something to say about it. This is not a passer-by who happens to see where Akwasi lives, but a professional who was working there. Can you be fired now?
“Putting it on hold is usually a prelude to dismissal,” says Van Gelderen about the steps taken against the window cleaner so far.“The judge will ultimately also consider the service record. If this is someone who has worked here for 20 years and has always been a good employee, then dismissal may not be an obvious choice. If this man has only been employed for two years and has already received several warnings, then it is very different.”
Whether the track record can save this window cleaner’s job is doubtful. In this case, Akwasi is a much-discussed figure who the window cleaner could have expected to evoke strong reactions. Even without making a threat himself, he could have known that his social media post was going to get out of hand. According to Van Gelderen, people sometimes defend their action by stating that their message has not been placed in a public group. Window Cleaners United, for example, is a closed group. “But that soon no longer matters if you know that a message can spread quickly. We can see that this actually happened here, from the fact that Akwasi also found out.”
Is there automatic dismissal in the event of a threat?
You can see a number of reactions to the window cleaner’s message as a threat. Do the people who posted these comments also have to take into account that they will lose their jobs?
“We are already talking about going a step further here”, Van Gelderen nuances, “but threats could be prosecuted and then dismissal could also be a realistic scenario in that situation.”
Even then, according to Van Gelderen, the function of a person and whether dismissal is proportional also play a role. Employers can therefore hold their employees accountable for their statements if they have posted hateful comments, but dismissal is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Should companies have a social media protocol?
Several years ago, many companies introduced a social media protocol, which may help prevent incidents like this. Van Gelderen sees that especially larger organizations use this, but calls a protocol sensible. “You then indicate what is or is not possible. In this way, as an employee, you can never say that you did not know that certain things were not desired.”
In addition to the boss, the employee is also protected by a protocol. That immediately makes it clear which matters lie outside the working area, and which you cannot easily be held accountable for by your boss. The question is whether it is obvious for a small cleaning company to draw up such a protocol, but even without guidelines it is now clear that the action of the window cleaner is harmful.
Not only does Akwasi receive threats, the cleaning company is also threatened by telephone and fears for its survival, an employee tells NH Nieuws.Of course I only read this from the media, so I don’t know all the details, but dismissal can certainly not be ruled out.”
- Can an employer force you to come to the office – An employment lawyer explains how that works
- You miss out on unemployment benefits if you agree to a 10% wage offer – and these are your rights if you don’t want to make a sacrifice
- Employee was unfairly dismissed for dysfunction after promotion – and receives €100,000 from the judge
- Frits Wester takes a break – the employer can do this if an employee has an alcohol problem.