My friend Jon Hyman has a great discussion over on his Ohio Employer’s Law Blog about the firing of an employee over appearing in Playboy. The employee claimed the employer gave her permission to do so, but she was fired anyway.
Here in Dallas, we have a situation where a newly hired school teacher appeared in a Playboy website prior to being hired. Shockingly, word made it around the school and school district about her appearance. Now the school district is left in a quandary about what to do.
Nothing illegal happened, but some have raised the issue of whether her appearance violates the Educators’ Code of Ethics which states: "The educator shall be of good moral character and be worthy to instruct or supervise the youth of this state." Apparently the school district is considering the issue now and the story is going viral.
Now the pictures were taken two and half years ago, well before she was hired. She teaches in a high school and apparently the internet savvy youth of the school have found the pictures. So the pictures are going to follow her around forever and the media attention will simply exacerbate the situation.
If this wasn’t a school it might not be as dicey an issue, but it remains to be seen whether the district has the right to fire her. My guess (without seeing her contract) is that it probably can find some basis somewhere. If this were a private employer in Texas there could be a free speech claim but because we are an "at will" state, the employer could probably fire her.
Employers generally don’t want to get into regulating their employees’ lives with good reason. Here you wonder what the teacher’s thought process was with respect to the pictures and being a teacher? My guess, there wasn’t one. Nevertheless it wasn’t the best judgment. We’ll see what the school district does.