#dismissal – Social media and employment

Posted on: January 7th, 2016

Whether we like it or not, the impact of social media in the workplace cannot be ignored. Social media may be used by businesses for many reasons, whether as a marketing tool, assisting with recruitment or simply by allowing employees to update Twitter or blogs whilst at work. However the immediacy and casual nature of social media means that both employers and employees should be careful about what is posted.

In a recent well-publicised example, a senior partner of a large law firm was filmed calling Liverpool fans ‘scouse scum’ and ‘nasty horrible people’ in a video that went viral on YouTube and viewed over 290,000 times to date. The partner also contributed to a blog comparing older Liverpool fans to Jimmy Saville and tweeted that the city of Liverpool was ‘inbred’. Following the video, the partner was recognised and his employer named by angry football fans. The law firm subsequently dismissed him for the comments that were ‘entirely inconsistent with its ethos’.

This example highlights that the advance in social media has blurred the lines between being on and off duty. Once an opinion is committed to the internet, both the employee’s and employer’s reputation may be on the line.

Of course, last year also saw the first Twitter case, where entertainment store Game Retail had to go to the Employment Appeal Tribunal to prove that its dismissal of a manager for comments posted on Twitter about, amongst other things, Newcastle supporters, dentists and “t**ts in caravans”, was fair.

Those of you who came to our autumn breakfast seminar will remember we touched on the recent case of Smith v British Waterways Board (trading as Scottish Canals) in which the employer went looking for damaging comments on an employee’s Facebook page after the employee had raised a grievance. Perhaps surprisingly, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned the decision that the employee had been unfairly dismissed.

In contrast, last year an Employment Tribunal ruled that a worker who took a selfie at work wearing an Osama Bin Laden mask and posted it on Facebook had been unfairly dismissed.

These cases reinforce the fact that social media can prove to be a useful tool for employers, provided that you know how to deal with issues properly.

If you have any concerns about handling social media issues, do please get in touch with Holly Cudbill on 023 8048 3770 or at hollycudbill@coffinmew.co.uk, or why not join us on 27 January for our training workshop…

Social Media in the Workplace – half day training workshop
Wednesday 27 January 2016

Coffin Mew’s Employment Team will be running a half-day training workshop on ‘Social Media in the Workplace’ on Wednesday 27th January. The workshop will cover social media issues in the recruitment process, disciplinary and grievance issues for social media use and how social media affects restrictive covenants post-termination. This interactive workshop, with case studies and the opportunity to share your own experiences with like-minded professionals, will give you the practical tools you need to tackle this increasingly important area. If you wish to book onto the training workshop, please click here.