This article appeared in Cybersecurity Law & Strategy, an ALM publication for privacy and security professionals, Chief Information Security Officers, Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Corporate Counsel, Internet and Tech Practitioners, In-House Counsel. Visit the website to learn more.
Maybe it starts with “Did you hear …” whispers in the breakroom. Or perhaps it escalates as employees huddle over their smartphones, eager to check if the rumors are true — that one of their co-workers has a page on an online adult entertainment platform like OnlyFans. Regardless of how it starts, situations involving an employee’s voluntary online exposure rarely end well and can bring legal exposure for the employer. Besides dealing with the disruptive effect in the workplace, employers and HR professionals risk damage to a company’s reputation and being caught between a rock and a hard place: if you discipline the female employee with the OnlyFans side gig but not the male co-workers who discovered and shared it, you may be accused of engaging in disparate treatment, retaliation, or even of condoning sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. As sites like OnlyFans have exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, one side effect has been the creation of a minefield for employers, HR professionals, and lawyers to navigate.