Polyamory, swinging, kink and employment

Recently a Twitter contact and fellow sex blogger was fired from her job for her private life and as she puts it, “Clark Kent” identity on the web. She blogged about her open relationship and her escapades using the nom de plume: “The Beautiful Kind”.

It appears her employer, a non-profit, was running Google searches (and possibly more background checking, I think) on current employees in an attempt to dig-up any dirt on those employees that could be potentially compromising to the company. In doing so some old information from her Twitter account came-up with her real name and her Twitter nom de plume, and thus further Googling lead to her blog and a whole lot of really dirty stories I’m sure the “researcher” and the boss wanked-off to for hours.

When she arrived at work on April 27 she was immediately dismissed from her position with the company for her private life, that had someone not dug really, really deep would never have been discovered. To boot, she wasn’t in any position in the company that anyone outside the company would have been looking for her name, in short she was an office drone, not management, her name was nowhere on articles of incorporation.

Her boss wrote to her in her termination letter:

“We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of photos and material that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as one’s sexual explorations and preferences, our employees must keep their affairs private.”

Dear Mr. Employer, what per se is that “standard” that your employees are held to that is different than other comparable companies, and wouldn’t her private life remained private had you not been digging for something with which to nail one of your employees on? Would her private life not remained private if you had not been sticking your nose into her bedroom?

Where do you draw the line of what is your life at work and what is your life away from work? As is, our employers have great control over our after-work activities, from drinking and drugs to when we actually get time off, and anyone who signs the back of the paycheck instead of the front can tell you that according to their employer there is never a “good” time to take vacation or take a sick day.

I personally recently lost a part-time job due to breaking one of my own rules and getting involved with coworker, and although she knew up-front what my relationship status was, when shit went south with her she filed a complaint with HR against me. I was honest with HR in regards to my relationship with my wife and my relationship with her. She lied about many things. She still works there and I was let go for “inappropriate behavior” (see this post for the back story).

I also think a recent job offer was retracted after the employer that had offered the job I had accepted hooked-up to me on Facebook (obviously I pretty much had to accept his “friend request”) and three days later I got an email stating the position was “on hold” and the company “wasn’t sure which direction we are going in this division”. I think my liberal politics and support of LGBT issues did me in with this Conservative-leaning employer. My Facebook has no mention that my wife and I are in an open relationship.

As many have said though, if your boss and coworkers can’t accept you as you are, if you have to pretend to be someone else at work than who you are, do you really want to work there?

In today’s economy here in the U.S. I don’t know if the answer to that is “to thine ownself be true and be happy and broke” or “be an actor and be who they want you to be but unhappy”?

Where does the line between being who you are outside of work and discrimination in the workplace blur? Lesbian, gay, and transgendered people have been fighting this fight for years.

Regardless, the Internet and social media is rapidly redefining the workplace and workers’ place in it.

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  • GamerUK

    This isn’t a new situation, but the level of discrimination is the aspect which changes. While I lived in the UK I had a job where I had two personas: ‘Professional worker’ & ‘Rest of my LIfe’.

    For me it wasn’t so much an employer restriction (although there was the caveat ‘unbecoming conduct’ which was open to interpretation) it was far more that my position left me vulnerable to manipulation if my non-work activities were known.

    I still have the mentality to disguise my online identity. There are links that can be made to the Real Me, but I have a layer of plausible deniability where it cannot be proven. My email accounts and social network sites don’t (quite) have all the information needed to nail me to the burning cross of conformity.

    Should any of us have to do this? No, but sometimes it’s wiser to be a shadow and run under the radar of persecution than head on into the HR office and discuss termination.

  • Mishatherat

    The scary thing is that this could happen to anyone. I’ve taken up web sleuthing quite often in my time and have often been able to find places on the internet where acquaintances thought they were totally hidden and safe from detection.

    I would argue that it’s not as simple as “do you really want to work there if you can’t be yourself.” The unemployment rate is high, and I personally really can’t afford to lose my job – it took me forever to find the one I’m in right now!

  • TheCatzMeow

    While working for GP in Oregon I was required to sign a morality clause. Not only was my conduct monitored at work but outside of work.

    Thus far my employer here, while being owned by a very LDS man, he has let me be myself and support my community. I have run many a “kinky” jobs through our little print shop in Kaysville. I feel very fortunate for this because I realize that not many have the freedom to express themselves not only in their work but in their daily life.

    I have intimate friends that work for various government entities that if their open marriage/polyamory/kink was made known they would be fired, but yet if they were to claim to be gay or lesbian, they could not lose their job. Funny how that works… kind of a double standard in that respect from my point of view. (the couple that I am in an open relationship with, he is straight & she is bisexual) So yes if their personal private life was made known to their employers… they would both be unemployed.

    I personally don’t get it, but at the same time I feel and know I am fortunate to be in the position I am in.

  • I recently attended an event where several executives of financial institutions discussed that they (i) forbid the use of social sites and networks at work (eg, Facebook, Twitter, etc), but also (ii) require access to your Facebook and other social accounts so that they can be scoured, both as a condition of getting employment and as a condition of keeping employment. They seemed happy with and proud of these intrusions into their employees’ personal lives and conduct.

    The good news for those of, um, less conservative lifestyle choices, is that social norms and expectations are, in the grand scheme of things, heading toward openness. Radical openness, actually. Just look to the kids. But it takes time…too much time for The Beautiful Kind.

  • just me

    I was so saddened to see that happen to TBK. But it was a wake up call for me to be even more vigilant.

  • I was reminded of this quote from Dr. Seuss:

    “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  • I didn’t know the whole backstory about TBK. That’s pretty ludicrous, isn’t it?

    But I agree with Jonathan, we are headed towards a more open and tolerant mindset, albeit slowly. I consider myself lucky that I can be pretty out about who I am in most areas of my life, including at work. But many can’t because people can be so damned judgmental about how others spend their time.

    Sorry about losing your part time job. My husband has considered dating women in his workplace and I always tell him something a friend says to me – “don’t shit where you eat” It only get’s ya in trouble 😉