Dismissal for Comments on Facebook

Employees often fail to understand that comments made on social media are not always “private”.

When an employee in a call centre posted a number of obscene comments about a female co-worker on Facebook from home, he also mentioned the name of his employer.  A member of the public with access to his Facebook posts informed the company. The employee was dismissed for breaching the company’s policies on harassment and for bringing the company into serious disrepute.

His claim for unfair dismissal was dismissed by an Employment Tribunal.  It held the dismissal for harassment was a reasonable response to his actions.  It dismissed the employee’s argument that he had a right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the comments were posted on his publically accessible Facebook pages.

It didn’t uphold the decision that the employee had brought the company into serious disrepute, but on the grounds that it had not been sufficiently proven, and the employer hadn’t done sufficient investigation. Fortunately that didn’t matter.

Employers don’t need to be daunted by the idea of dealing with a conduct issue involving social media.  If something an employer would have had no difficulty identifying as being misconduct if done within an office, or in a public place, it may also be misconduct if it is done on social media which is publicly accessible.  Action against harassment and to protect your reputation is much easier if the employer has good clear written policies.

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