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Here’s What Your HR Department Knows About Your Online Nudes

Should you delete that GoneWild account before entering the job market again?

Heidi, a 22-year-old in the U.K. — short for her online pseudonym HeidiHurricaine (NSFW) — is “embarking on a noble quest to share my nudes with the world.” She’s also embarking on an equally noble quest to graduate law school and become an attorney. 

Basically, then, she is all of us. 

Or better put, she’s just more publicly walking the same line as most everyone else with an iPhone — wanting to get (and keep) a good job while also having a little fun when we’re off the clock (that fun being taking off our clothes and documenting what we do with our naked bodies to feel good). 

So given this reality — and the stat that, apparently, one-third of all Americans have nude photos of themselves floating around cyberspace — is our employers’ attitude toward online nudity increasingly becoming more about self-expression than a cause for termination? That is, is Heidi ahead of the curve? 

Not quite, says Staci McIntosh, an HR consultant in Las Vegas, a locale that’s presented its fair share of sinful human resource challenges. “Newsflash: Very few jobs require you to take photos of yourself nude,” McIntosh explains. “Unless the job involves taking nude photos of yourself, having such photos online is always going to prevent you from getting a professional role.” 

McIntosh says if she found nude images of an applicant — and was able to verify the photos weren’t doctored or posted illegally — she’d pass on the candidate. “It shows an extreme lack of judgment to have nude photos of yourself publicly available when you’re looking for a job,” McIntosh continues. “And I’d coach other hiring managers to pass on the candidate as well.” 

To be fair, though, McIntosh admits most hiring managers aren’t going to dig deep to find your naked flesh. “They’re going to Google the actual name, maybe the profession, maybe the location,” she says. “They aren’t going to Google ‘nude photos of Suzy Q.’” 

Still, her never-nude stance isn’t about being a prude. Rather, finding an employee’s self-posted nudes could be a liability nightmare. “If an employee has nude photos available for all to see, it’s going to create a disruption in the workplace. There could even be a legal risk to the organization if some people feel comfortable sharing the nude photos of their colleague at work, while others are understandably uncomfortable, creating a hostile or sexually harassing work environment,” she tells me.

Naturally, Heidi disagrees. “The demonization of posting nudes online is unnecessary and outdated,” she says. “That needs to change. The simple fact that you’ve posted naked pictures of yourself online, for whatever reason, doesn’t say anything about your character or that you’re any less capable of doing a job than a person who doesn’t.” 

Still, Heidi takes extreme measures to separate her publicly available nudes from her publicly available everything else. “My Reddit account and OnlyFans are far removed from my public persona,” she says, adding that she’s “very conservative” with what she posts on her regular accounts. “In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to do that, but if people who know me in real life — or a potential employer — were to find my accounts, it would be pretty detrimental to my future career.” 

And while this definitely violates McIntosh’s never-nude policy, in the eyes of the law, Heidi taking measures to keep her nudes away from her public profile might be her saving grace. “It seems that if someone wants to post a nude picture of themselves, they have that right as long as they don’t bring it into the workplace,” says Dan Kalish, managing partner of HKM Employment Attorneys. “I don’t believe that a company could be liable for an employee posting photos of themselves online, as long as the employee doesn’t advertise this and doesn’t ‘invite’ others to view them.”

That said, Kalish points out that companies can fire employees for pretty much any reason — having nudes online obviously being one of them. McIntosh, however, argues that it’s pretty risky to fire someone for a random photo they didn’t post while employed at their current company. So, if in 10 years a co-worker “accidentally” finds Heidi’s nudes, but she hasn’t posted any while representing her employer, she might be okay. 

“Employment law arguments are all over the map for this type of situation,” McIntosh explains. “You may have to show that the nude pictures caused a big disruption in the workplace, but there are various parameters that apply, such as type of employer, when the photos were done, how accessible they are and impact to business, brand credibility or the work environment.” 

What, though, of the future? Again, it’s not like we’re gonna stop taking naked pictures of ourselves — if anything, it’s only gonna be easier and they’re gonna proliferate at a faster and faster rate. Once more, allow McIntosh to be the wet blanket. Beyond impeccably keeping your true identity separate from your nude identity, she doesn’t anticipate posting nudes “ever being acceptable in the professional world.” 

Yet another revolution thwarted by Corporate America.