News & events
01/05/2012 - Misconduct and social media
Following on from our social media article in our August 2011 Alert, there has been a further decision which adds to the developing case law in relation to the dismissal of an employee for improper use of social media. Whilst previous cases have focused on the employer's right to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct when it brings the employer's reputation into disrepute, this latest case is slightly different, perhaps indicating that the employer's ability to dismiss employees for inappropriate use of social media is expanding.
In Teggart v TeleTech UK Limited NIIT 007904/11, the Northern Ireland industrial tribunal (the Tribunal) has held that an employee who posted obscene comments about a female colleague on his Facebook page was fairly dismissed.
The Tribunal accepted that although the conduct had not brought the employer's reputation into disrepute, it did amount to harassment of a colleague. The company had policies in place which provided that harassment could result in immediate dismissal for gross misconduct and therefore, in the circumstances, the dismissal was reasonable.
The Tribunal also considered the employee's right to privacy and freedom of expression and said that any such rights had been lost when the employee posted his comments, harassing in nature, in a public forum.
As the use of social media becomes more and more prevalent, no doubt further cases will emerge; we will keep you updated.
- Introduce a policy on acceptable (and unacceptable!) use of social media – explain that employees should not have an expectation of privacy in relation to comments made through social media
- Social media can play a useful tool for business and employees need to be advised of the limits of how they use this
- Ensure that a fair disciplinary procedure is followed in dealing with misconduct related to social media