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In my country there was a recent moral panic, where it was discovered that a popular TV host had uploaded videos with private moments of his (now ex) girlfriend online.

After this event was made public, he was immediately terminated from his TV program, and from a radio show he was also working in.

My question is: Why is it morally justified to fire people that are good in their job for moral reasons completely unrelated with their employment? If we have confidence that the judicial system works properly, shouldn't the repercussions of any illegal act be limited to what the court has decided?

I understand that in the current climate of social media attacks, businesses are inclined to do anything to keep the "social mob" happy, but aren't they overstepping their authority to pass judgment on their employees for something completely unrelated to their job?

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    Morals clause: A morals clause is a contractual provision that gives a company the unilateral right to terminate a contract or take other remedial action if the breaching party engages in misconduct that might negatively impact the company’s reputation. It allows the company to quickly sever its relationship with the offending individual; thereby distancing the company from whatever the person did (or is alleged to have done).
    – Rick Smith
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:35
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    @RickSmith: Thanks for that, I didn't know it existed. But this doesn't seem to answer my question completely, just move it a bit: Namely, why is the use of such a clause considered moral, given that the offender is already punished by the legal system for their misdemeanor.
    – user000001
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:39
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    @user000001 Morality dosen't factor into it. The termination is based on the company attempting to distance their public image from the figure. The termination is entirely because the (im)moral actions of the employee can materially damage the reputation of the employer if not distanced/terminated.
    – GOATNine
    Dec 15, 2021 at 17:52
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    @GOATNine: I get that the employer is just protecting his own interest, without any regard to morality, but why do we as a society demand the complete cancellation of someone for something like this? He should be punished by the legal system, instead of the mob in my opinion. Maybe I should have asked this on philosophy.SE instead of politics.
    – user000001
    Dec 15, 2021 at 18:07
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    Most people in our society do not demand cancellation. As you've noted, it's usually businesses, protecting their own interests who "cancel" people. Why do businesses think it's in their interest? Ted Wrigley's answer explains this pretty well - though doesn't get into the moral aspects. Consider this: a person employed by Company A makes the public statement: "I hate Jews." I find this repugnant. Am I morally obligated to continue to support Company A? If not, and Company A loses my business, are they morally obligated to retain the employee that's causing the loss in business?
    – Juhasz
    Dec 15, 2021 at 19:02

1 Answer 1

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In any commercial organization, an employee caught committing a significant indiscretion creates three strictly financial risks:

  1. Loss of customers outraged by the indiscretion
  2. Loss of reputation (and thus loss of future customers) by any association of the company with the individual in question
  3. Loss of productivity within the organization as employees shy away from working with the individual in question

These risks increase with the prominence of the person within the organization and their fame within the greater society (as well as the severity of the indiscretion) because such prominence and fame increases the public's identification between the employee and the company itself.

In some cases, companies are willing to stand by employees accused of wrongdoing, but generally speaking that only happens when the employee is so central to the company's purposes that firing them would cost more on the bottom line that retaining and defending them. That's why (for example) Tucker Carlson still works at FOX. But usually it makes more fiscal sense to cut ties in order to rehabilitate the company's reputation.

'Being good at a job' implies profitability, particularly in the media and entertainment worlds. No company would keep on an architect whose building collapsed, no matter how skilled the architect is otherwise, because a collapsed building costs more in money and reputation than any architect is likely to generate for the company. Likewise, no company would keep on a media presence whom people suddenly find repulsive. It's simply not cost-effective.

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  • Yes from the employers' perspective it is obviously good to keep the "twitter mob" happy to help their bottom line. My questions was more about why we as a society feel that someone who has done something morally wrong should be completely canceled from everything, even though they have already been punished for their wrong-doing by the legal system.
    – user000001
    Dec 15, 2021 at 21:39
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    @user000001: That's an age-old question about a more complicated sociological effect. Cultures world-wide have used shame and alienation to enforce social rules since before history. Look at the social punishments leveled on women for premarital sex, or the treatment of the Jews through most of Christian history. Societies have rules: some are enforced by laws, some are enforced by mobs (lynchings, tar and feathering, scarlet letters), some are enforced by stigmatization and ostracism. It isn't always fair, or nice, or just, but... You poke the beast, you take your chances. Dec 15, 2021 at 22:25

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