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Craigslist, Your Sales Manager and a Very Naughty Picture. What to Do?

by Ed Ryan

February 10, 2011 - So, you want to be a General Manager in the age of social marketing. Ten years ago a fax machine was a luxury. Now, you can't use the restroom without your iPhone or Blackberry. 2011 has arrived, your tweeting away and your station is still standing. More than a few cuts in the past two years, no gas trade for the personal vehicle and an automated shift here and there helped get you through. You did what you had to do to make it work and you weathered the storm of "the worst recession since the depression." It's time to relax, turn off the smart phone for five minutes and put your feet on your desk. And then, your top salesperson walks in and closes the door. This can't be good.

Your "not-too-cocky" top seller shows you a photo of your sales manager, married sales manager, posing in front of a mirror. No shirt. So shoes. No problem, right? You note a smirk on your top seller's face. It might have even been an evil smile. You know there's more. She tells you "this picture was on the singles section. And our, my, biggest client just threatened to pull her schedule because she's disgusted by the behavior" There goes the gas trade you just got back. And now the local TV station is on the line wanting a comment.

                                      VOTE IN OUR FRIDAY POLL. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

As General Manager's we're faced with so many different scenarios. Creative people bouncing off the building walls. Egos in every office. The traffic director always feeling like she's being trampled on. And you, the glue, that holds it all together. That's why you get paid the big bucks. But when this particular Sales Manager refuses to resign, what do you do? He posed in his own posing trunks. On his own time. In front of his own mirror. He wasn't wearing a station bumper sticker across his chest. And, he wasn't taking requests using the station 800 number. You are between a rock and a hard place you big time GM?

We took our "ripped from the headlines" scenario to attorney John Wells King. King says that question would turn on the state law of the jurisdiction in which the conduct arose, since the station and the SM are in an employer/employee relationship which arises from an employment agreement (whether oral or written), under principles of contract law. "Oral agreements can fall under the doctrine of “at will” employment, which permits either party to terminate without liability. However, there are exceptions to an employer’s freedom to terminate under an oral contract. These include principles of public policy, good faith dealing, and statutory protections such as state wrongful termination statutes".

Oooh. That last sentence hurts big time and is clearly the one we have to look out for as GM's. Wrongful termination. We don't have the time for all that mumbo jumbo. King says you may want to revisit how to protect the station. "Since a written employment agreement is a contract that evidences the “meeting of the minds” of the parties to it, the parties may negotiate provisions designed to protect the station. Agreements can have “morals” clauses that restrict employees for example, from doing anything that may tend to degrade them in society, that may bring them into public ridicule, disrepute, scorn, or hatred, or that may insult or offend community morals or decency, or that may prejudice the employer or injure its reputation. The caveat to including a morals clause in any employment agreement is that it is consistent with state law. This leads to the advisory caution that a lawyer should be consulted in a particular case".

Moral of my long-winded story. This might be a good time to revisit your employee agreements and employee handbook. If they were created when you took orders over the fax machine it's unlikely they clearly state the rules about what's acceptable in the social marketing world. Having an "up-front" contract with everyone may help you avoid problems and protect your station when someone on your staff has a Congressman Chris Lee moment.

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John King can be reached at
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