In the beginning we had type writers and life was far simpler. People thought before they wrote. Now we have computers and social media and the increasing emergence of claims based on the (mis)use of social media sites, in particular comments posted on Facebook. Appeal court decisions on social media issues are thin on the ground but this year tribunals have found an employee was dismissed fairly for sending a racially offensive e-mail outside working hours from his home computer to another employee’s home computer. Not only was it evident from the particularly offensive email that the employer’s reputation could be damaged, but the employee clearly had no control over where the email ended up and urged the recipient to “pass it on!”. Separately, an employer had fairly dismissed an employee for posting vulgar comments about the promiscuity of a female colleague on his Facebook page. Although the comments did not bring the employer’s reputation into serious disrepute, the employee’s harassment of his colleague was in breach of the employer’s policies and was sufficiently serious on its own to justify his dismissal for gross misconduct.
That said, case law has also urged employers not to jump too quickly on to the ‘trust and confidence/disrepute’ band wagon. This may not be the fool proof defence some employers hope it will be. Case law also demonstrates the need for employers to do what they sensibly can to regulate the activity of their employees (including activity on social media), employers may otherwise be liable for their actions.
See also Lesson 7 – more helpful guidance around Facebook issues.
Carol – Once in royal Facebook’s city
Teggart v TeleTech UK Ltd
Gosden v Lifeline Project Ltd
Otomewo v The Carphone Warehouse
For more information, help or advice please contact Tim Davies on 0191 211 7927 or email [email protected].