We recently had some public strikes and protests in Brazil which caused some major inconveniences all around. One of those inconveniences was the lack of public transport for today, so my direct boss (our CEO) opted to give everyone the day off.
During one of those protests, someone threw a rock which broke one of our very large glass windows at the street level. Another person, unrelated to the rock throwing incident, saw the broken window and used the opportunity to enter our office and steal a computer from our reception.
We found out later that this thief was a sibling to one of our employees - let's call this employee "Frank" - by checking the security cameras. Someone, somehow, let that information leak to the internal company-wide communication channel, and things rapidly deteriorated from there.
Our CEO has no plans to pursue any punishment for Frank, because he had absolutely nothing to do with the theft. However, other employees are calling for blood and blaming him for his "association" with a criminal, with comments like "the fruit doesn't fall far away from the tree", and blaming him for stuff that may or may have not disappeared from the office in the past.
Things grew out of proportion very quickly. I had to take our chat channel down to stop this flame war, but the conversation just moved to an unofficial chat room not controlled by the company. There are a bunch of employees getting very vocal about firing Frank.
Now, Frank isn't a senior employee nor a key player, but from the management point of view he didn't do anything wrong. My boss is thinking in issuing written warnings1 for those that flamed him, which include at least one senior employee, a few juniors and an intern.
We are worried however that this action can be seem as "favoring" him over the other employees, which can cause a even bigger storm. However, firing him would be wrong from our point of view, since he didn't do anything wrong.
Our CEO suspects that a part of this flaming war is due to a disguised form of racism. Frank is part of a racial minority, and this may be one of the factors that could explain all this hate he is getting. I'm not sure about this myself, but I wouldn't discard the possibility.
Our current plan is to issue written warnings1 for everyone that somehow blames Frank for anything related to this incident. Is this, however, a valid course of action to take on this situation?
1 - Written warnings are a specific legal concept in Brazilian employment law. More here