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Employers aren’t responsible for employees

T. Opinion

What’s the worst thing that can happen when you have a few drinks and get behind the controller of a quadcopter? Well crashing it into, arguably, the most heavily guarded lawn in the United States for starters.

The unidentified pilot of the drone was drinking in his friend’s apartment at a late hour. He was flying a drone around the room when he decided to open a window, and test the wild blue yonder beyond the confines of the small apartment.

Things went awry when the drone lost contact with the controller, which is a common and reoccurring malfunction of the brand. The brand says the user must calibrate the drone to prevent such occur- rences, but how much can be expected of someone under the influence, and who lacks the knowledge to operate a drone.

After sleeping the night off, and noticing the incident on the news the next morning, the unidentified man contacted local authorities. He works for a government intelligence agency called The National GeoSpatial-Intelligence Agency and was not charged with any crime.

This latest breach of security at the White House has spawned a lot of questions on how well the Secret Service can guard the president’s safety, while the NGA is caught in the limelight of attention, apologizing for their employee’s mistake.

According to NGA’s webpage, they take “the incident very seriously and remain committed to promoting trust and transparency.” The fact that the unidentified man is a government employee means his job is most certainly at risk, even if he was off duty.

What does NGA have to do with this incident? Why is NGA apologizing for this man’s actions? The mistake certainly appears to be exactly that, a mistake. Every human commits them, and they are unavoidable.

Employers are not always the parents who forgive their child after he or she has snuck out of the house past 9 p.m. on a school night. Most companies’ forgiveness is only going to stretch as far as the risk of their reputation allows.

Reputation is the cornerstone of success, and it does not reflect well on an ‘intelligence’ agency if they have employees crashing drones into the lawn of the White House while inebriated. Companies do not want to be associated with people who cannot conduct themselves in a respectful and professional manner.

It is the same thing as people who do not want friends who are always getting them into trouble, or having a friend who is not with you, but does something heinous. Would someone want to be associated with that person anymore? Guilty by association is the saying, and companies take this seriously.

A most prudent move would be a public apology from NGA, but until NGA made the apology, the general public did not know of NGA, or that the man worked for them.

There is usually a much higher degree of accountability with careers associated with the government in any way at all, so the apology comes as no surprise. Government employees know this very well as it is reiterated many times, and employees are aware that an incident like this will not be taken very lightly.

Not all employers and companies should be responsible for their employee’s actions when they are off duty though, and this largely depends on circumstance. If an employee knows that a trustworthy and professional reputation is absolutely critical to his or her employer, then they should know they are held accountable for their actions on or off duty.

If the situation was different and the unidentified man worked for a company that did not work for the government, then a public apology is not an obligation. It may be a smart decision for a company to issue an apology regardless.

Any person who considers themselves a professional should expect a large measure of responsibility when making mistakes like this, and this man has expressed that. By his willingness to call the accident in himself shows that it was a genuine mistake, which everyone makes, no matter if he was doing all the wrong things that creates a scenario that only ends badly.

Furthermore, a good employer that cares for their employees, government agency or not, should seek all options of keeping an incident like this in house. Punishment will usually be less severe if the press and the Secret Service are not involved. If the incident breaches the code of conduct then the employee should be fired to show that such actions are not tolerated.

Ultimately there needs to be a middle ground in situations like this. Companies need to do their best to protect their employees, while the employees should always act in a professional manner, at work and on their own free time. People get fired all the time for inappropriate behavior outside of work, and companies are always taking the blame. Something has to give.

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Employers aren’t responsible for employees