On Friday, I had the opportunity, along with my law partner, David Atkins, to talk about some of the pitfalls for in-house counsel of social media for WESFACCA.  (My thanks to Lee Cushman, the Executive Director, for the invite.) 

The friendly skies?

One of the items that caught some of the attendee’s attention was my warning that company firewalls are meaningless in the age of smart phones — a point I’ve made on this blog before.

A prime example?  The case of Gailen Lee David (a/k/a Dear Sky Steward).

Mr. David was a flight attendant for American Airlines who developed an alter-ego of the Sky Steward and Aluminum Lady.  He produced several videos on YouTube and created a Facebook page that lampooned AA executives (and even customers). 

Eventually, his posts caught up with him and AA held a meeting with him.  But this was no ordinary meeting as Mr. David posted regular Facebook updates from the meeting live. 

Do you know how you would prepare for that?

Obviously, not every termination meeting is going to go quite as public as this one, but are you prepared as an employer to deal with it if it did?  A social media policy will help, but a social media response strategy is even better.  (This webinar from Kathy Hokunson — with input from Andrea Obston — on the use of social media during crisis management is a good start.)  

In AA’s case, it took the high road to note that the employee wasn’t being terminated for off-color videos, but rather for violating company policy.  It took some heat for a few days, but notably, the employee hasn’t filed suit. 

Instead, he’s chosen a second career with his own website where you too can buy your very own tie.  

There are, of course, lots of other examples an employees behaving badly (let’s not forget the Starbucks rant song) but if your company hasn’t thought about how you would deal with employee use of social media by now, I’m not sure how many more warning signs we can provide.