James Gunn | Disney Director's reappointment holds key HR lessons

Disney Director's reappointment holds key HR lessons

Last July it was reported by numerous media outlets that James Gunn, Director of Guardians of The Galaxy, was let go from his position after a realm of controversial tweets from more than a decade ago resurfaced.

According to the Hollywoodreporter.com, the filmmaker came under fire for joking about paedophilia and rape, which led Disney to terminate his contract of employment.

The Chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Alan Horn, said in a public statement at the time: "The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James' Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio's values, and we have severed our business relationship with him."

Last year, this sparked a weighty response from Gunn who tweeted: "I understand and accept the business decisions taken.” However, it seems that there was almost immediately a backlash on the director's behalf, with film supports claiming that the studio had overreacted and moved too quickly to sever business ties with Gunn.

The filmmaker added: "Many people who have followed my career know, when I started, I viewed myself as a provocateur, making movies and telling jokes that were outrageous and taboo. As I have discussed publicly many times, as I've developed as a person, so has my work and my humour.

“It's not to say I'm better, but I am very, very different than I was a few years ago; today I try to root my work in love and connection and less in anger. My days saying something just because it's shocking and trying to get a reaction are over."

The publication reported that the posts initially came to light after The Daily Caller found the tweets which were posted between 2008 and 2009. Gunn has since said that he “regretted” writing those tweets and remains adamant that his poorly judged tweets don’t reflect his personality today.

Looking for more

The consequences resulted in Gunn being sacked last year, but news broke yesterday that Disney have made a U-turn decision and reinstated Gunn as Director of The Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.

This series of events highlights a number of key HR issues.

Read on to find out more.

Employers check social media

According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen prospective employees during the recruitment process, while 43% of employers use it to check-up on existing employees. While many frequent social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, it is crucial to remember that the comments, statements and photographs posted are public and could be misconstrued or misinterpreted. So, drunk Fresher’s Week photographs should probably avoid social media at all costs.

The possibility of an employment tribunal

In the case of Gunn, he was let go from Disney for old tweets that he had most likely forgotten about. But it isn’t always the case that a sacked employee will be reinstated eight months down the line. Either way, if an employee feels that they have been treated unfairly or unlawfully, the case may proceed to an employment tribunal which can be very costly and tug on a company’s resources. So, another reason to keep social media profiles clean is to avoid the hassle, for both employees and employers, of partaking in an employment tribunal.

The risks of rehiring staff

Gunn’s reinstatement came after he had been signed to direct another major move title; the sequel to Suicide Squad – Deadline first reported. Disney then confirmed his appointment but didn’t add any further comment. It is possible that a main reason for his rehiring was due to pressure from The Guardians of the Galaxy fans who wanted a consistent direction for the film’s sequel. But, according to wepow.com, there are numerous downsides to rehiring staff – and some of these are particularly heightened given Gunn’s initial reason for being sacked. It is possible that returning staff may feel a power of entitlement even though they will technically be considered as a new employee. And, with social media continually dragging up people’s past, it is even possible that his earlier tweets could reignite issues with Disney in future.

So, the key takeaway for HR is to consider the risks of rehiring staff who were previously fired.

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