Social media is used by over 92% of businesses as a part of their marketing strategy. We are sending over 120,000 tweets a second and Facebook is still the most visited website of all. There is no doubt that social media has its place in business and is a very effective and cost efficient way of communicating to large numbers of existing and potential customers.
It does however come with a whole host of problems, its immediate and interactive nature means that unguarded or ill thought out ‘messages’ can spread quickly and do a significant amount of damage.
The set up and use of personal social media accounts at work are subject to an employer’s policy or rules. It is always worth checking out the rules around social media before logging onto or setting up a personal account at work. Particularly if what is posted can impact on the business or relationships within that business.
Some recent cases set out below, give a sobering view of the law and what it sees as abuse.
In the case Weeks v Everything Everywhere Ltd ET/2503016/2012 an employer frequently referred to his place of work as ‘Dante’s Inferno’ on his personal Facebook page. This was in breach of the companies’ social media policies and took place during work hours. He was asked to remove the posts and refrain from writing any more. The employer refused. The employer was dismissed. The tribunal found that ‘some reasonable employers would have concluded that the claimant’s conduct amounted to gross misconduct and a serious breach of the social media policy and disciplinary policy. The decision to dismiss was one which some reasonable employers may have arrived at and was therefore one which fell within the range of reasonable responses.’
In the case Otomewo v Carphone Warehouse Ltd ET/2330554/2011 two employees took the claimants mobile phone and logged onto his Facebook page and updated his status to ‘“Finally came out the closet. I am gay and proud.” The tribunal ruled that the employer ‘Carphone Warehouse’ was vicariously liable for sexual orientation harassment, because the incident had taken place during work hours and in the work place.
In the case, Biggin Hill Airport v Derwich UKEAT/0043/15/2015, an employee was applying for a promotion at work, so un-friended her work colleagues on Facebook. In retaliation two of her work colleagues replaced her screen saver with one of a witch. They were dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct. The tribunal found the dismissal unfair because the employer (The Airport) had made several mistakes throughout the disciplinary procedure. They did however rule that the replacing of a screensaver and embarking on inappropriate searches to find the images could, in principle, justify a dismissal.
So next time you feel like ranting about your awful boss or your annoying work mate, don’t do it on social media.
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