Can You Dismiss Someone For Facebook Indiscretions?
by Hermione Avila - Paralegal
28 July 2012, filed under Employment
With over 30 million registered users in the UK, it is no wonder that Facebook has begun to cause some employers difficulties in the workplace. Firstly there is the problem of ensuring that your staff are all actually working and not just socialising with friends on their favourite social networking site! Possibly more importantly, there is the risk of an employee defaming your company by posting negative comments about their place of work on Facebook.
So, can you dismiss an employee for making allegations about your business on Facebook. The short answer is yes. However, this all depends on the policies and procedures you currently have in your workplace. The best way to protect yourself against this kind of behaviour from your employees is to ensure they know what is expected of them in the workplace.
If you have an employee handbook you may already have an email/internet/telephone policy within it or in your employee’s contract. If you don’t, check out our employment contracts section and get up to date now! You should include a clause in this section of the contract/handbook outlining that making derogatory remarks on Facebook about their place of work, business or any clients/customers will not be tolerated and disciplinary action will be taken. The severity of the disciplinary action will have to be deemed reasonable by an Employment Tribunal should the employee bring a claim for unfair dismissal so it is very important that you consider what the most appropriate disciplinary action is. In extreme cases dismissal will be acceptable but others may call for a written warning.
Facebook was launched in 2004 and has been going in the UK for quite some time now and therefore there has already been some precedent caselaw which does help employers to determine what the employment Tribunal would consider to be reasonable actions in dealing with this situation.
In Preece v JD Wetherspoons Plc January 2011 the Employment Tribunal deemed that dismissal was in fact fair, as the Claimant (Preece) had taken part in protracted discussion over Facebook of Wetherspoons’ customers, referring to them by name and in a derogatory fashion. The Employment Tribunal heard that a customer had upset Preece during working hours. However, Wetherspoons had dealt with the situation adequately and Preece continued to make derogatory comments on Facebook long after the situation had been dealt with. The Employment Tribunal found that although it may also have been reasonable for the employer to issue a final written warning, they could not find that in the circumstances a dismissal was unreasonable.
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