NekNomination is an internet drinking game spread by social media which has gone viral in recent weeks. The game involves players recording themselves downing an alcoholic drink and then challenging others to do the same, all through the medium of Facebook.
In a worrying but inevitable display of one-upmanship, these videos have become more and more extreme and five people – including four Britons - have already died, the last one a rugby player who died four days after filming himself drinking two pints of gin.
What (if anything) does this mean for employers? Does the potential risk of death give employers the right to intervene? Firstly, it may mean that more employers start undertaking social media checks on potential employees. Would you hire a candidate who posted a video of himself drinking his own urine after mixing it with cat food?
Employers should be aware that what employees choose to do in their spare time is essentially their own decision, up to a point at least. No matter how outrageous the video or how many live goldfish are consumed, unless the NekNomination video somehow relates to the employment, employers will not be able to take disciplinary action.
Any drinking in the workplace may be misconduct and justify disciplinary action. The employee’s conduct could also warrant disciplinary action if it harms the employer’s reputation. For example, if they wear the work uniform in the video while doing something anti-social or just plain stupid. But mere disapproval of online drinking games will not constitute grounds for intervention.
So whether NekNomination proves to be career suicide or just harmless fun will vary from case to case. Employers should avoid knee-jerk reactions and try to apply common sense alongside their own internal policies. Hopefully, NekNomination will, like most viral sensations, disappear as quickly as it arrived, allowing the nation’s goldfish to breathe a watery sigh of relief.