Sex and the workplace usually don’t mix well. In these days of virtual work from home, sex continues to be an issue, even with fewer employees in the workplace.
OnlyFans is a content subscription service where content creators earn money from users (i.e. “fans”) who subscribe to their content. Celebrities like Michael B. Jordan, Black Chyna, Cardi B, and Bella Thorne have made thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars from posting content to OnlyFans. OnlyFans is also popular with sex workers who post pornographic content. Any adult can make an OnlyFans page and the subscription service pays out 80% of earnings while keeping 20% as a fee. The specter of easy money combined with a global recession means that many employees have been supplementing their incomes through OnlyFans.
Recently, a 24-year-old female mechanic from Indiana was terminated after her male co-workers discovered her OnlyFans page and began watching her “adult” videos at work. The mechanic complained of harassment from male employees after they discovered her OnlyFans page. She also admitted to sharing some photos in her company uniform and some taken on Company property.
On December 12, 2020, the New York Post outed a 23-year-old female EMT employed by SeniorCareEMS in New York City for having an “adult” OnlyFans page. The EMT told the Post that she created her page because she “[doesn’t] get paid a lot” and because she is “just trying to make ends meet.” The EMT went on to say:
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t affect how I treat people. What I do in my free time is my business. It has no effect on how I care for my patients. I know when I’m working, I’m a paramedic. I think I’m pretty good at my job.”
Many people, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, came the EMT’s defense and, unlike the mechanic in Indiana, she was able to keep her job.
These cases have sparked discussions about the dignity of work and the space that sex work occupies with respect to more traditional work. What does this mean for employers and employees? Employers need to make sure that their companies have substantial social media policies that set forth when, where and how an employee may express themselves online. This matters especially if an employee is mentioning their employer online. Employers also need to make sure that they are enforcing their social media policies fairly. For example, if an employer chooses to discipline a female employee for having an OnlyFans account where she appears topless on her own time but chooses not to discipline a male employee who posts racy photographs on his Instagram page, that employer may face a gender bias lawsuit.
Employees need to make sure that they review their employer’s social media policies before making an OnlyFans account. They should avoid any posts that reference their employer and should avoid making posts on company time or on company property. Further, employees need to review employer policies on outside employment. Substantial income from subscribers could constitute outside employment. Lastly, any employee with a security clearance should think twice about creating an OnlyFans because the nature of the subscription service could make them open to undue influence or blackmail and cost them their clearance.
Sex in the workplace isn’t just two people sneaking off into the supply closet together. Online and virtual sex-related activity can have a consequential impact on both employers and employees.
Broderick C. Dunn is a partner at Cook Craig & Francuzenko, PLLC. He focuses his practice on business and employment litigation. Follow him on Twitter @broderick_dunn and connect with him on LinkedIn @https://www.linkedin.com/in/broderickdunn.