Since the storming of the U.S. Capitol two weeks ago, internet sleuths have been busy identifying those involved. While some investigations have involved forensic analysis, going frame by frame to find information that puts names to faces, others are a little more straightforward. 

An unnamed man has been fired from his job with Maryland marketing company Navistar after it was brought to their attention that a rioter who had breached the Capitol building was pictured still wearing his company ID badge.

In a statement, the company said: “After review of the photographic evidence the employee in question has been terminated for cause.”

Following their involvement in the scenes that unfolded in Washington, an attorney from Texas has been dismissed by Goosehead Insurance; a real estate agent from Chicago was fired by @properties; and an adjunct professor resigned from Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. 

As the names of these businesses and institutions have been suddenly thrust into the headlines, it begs the question of what companies can do to identify this kind of behavior earlier, and what preventative action they can take, if any, rather than wait for employees to be involved in such events. 

Tools such as Behavox Conduct are already used by enterprises to monitor for misconduct and protect employees from harmful behavior, such as racism, sexism and bullying. It uses artificial intelligence to analyze communication data and flags any highly concerning content for review. 

The same tools could be used by companies to monitor for the specific phrases and lexicon that light up the more politically-extreme corners of the internet and then raise alerts that would enable HR to take the appropriate action. This approach would help to ensure that corporate communication channels aren’t being used to organize such events or to fan the flames of extremism.

The moral quandary here is how far someone has to go (how many incendiary emails/ tweets or messages an employee has to make) before a HR manager can dismiss an employee without fear of repercussions?

The real estate agent fired by @properties defended her actions by saying she had done nothing wrong and had not entered the Capitol. She had merely posted selfies from the scene on Instagram, sang the national anthem and then left. 

So, where should companies draw a line in the sand when it comes to the sensitive subject of politics? When does supporting a political party turn into something more sinister? 

For Navistar, it’s when an employee’s actions endanger others, “While we support all employees’ right to peaceful, lawful exercise of free speech, any employee demonstrating dangerous conduct that endangers the health and safety of others will no longer have an employment opportunity with Navistar Direct Marketing.”

In addition to the use of technology to monitor for this kind of behavior, perhaps more needs to be done to educate employees on what is and isn’t acceptable. It will be interesting to see whether companies begin to take preemptive measures against this kind of misconduct or if we continue to see brand names make the headlines for all the wrong reasons.