With social media such as Facebook and Twitter not looking like they are going away anytime soon, it is becoming increasingly common to encounter cases in which comments made on social media play an integral role. One only has to look at the furore caused by twitter comments made by the Kent Youth PCC to know the dangers that employers and employees face .
Facebook is currently the most problematic of the social media sources and one in which even the tribunals can’t always give a consistent response to. Employee’s should however be aware from the outset that items which they post on Facebook can be used in evidence against them. They need to be exceedingly careful if they are signed off sick and go on to post incriminating statements that could show dishonesty with regard to their sickness absence.  Employers on the other hand should not take it upon themselves to trawl endlessly through employee’s pages trying to find anything incriminating.
A recent tribunal case has confirmed that just because an employee makes disparaging comments about his work place it does not give the Employers the automatic right to dismiss them for gross misconduct. In this case the Tribunal found that the response by the employer was outside the range of reasonable responses and subsequently found it to be an unfair dismissal. It is however interesting to note that the Claimant did have his award reduced by 50% by the Tribunal as they felt that his posts contributed to his dismissal.
This is supported by an earlier case where the Claimant was found to have been unfairly dismissed after comments were made about other employees on Facebook. It is important to note that again there was a contributory penalty issued the Tribunal as she did make the comments in the first place.
However employees should not feel they can post with impunity relying on the above cases to protect them. Other Tribunal decisions have gone the other way. One in which the Claimant regularly compared his work place to that of ‘Dante’s Inferno‘. The Tribunal found that he had been fairly dismissed due to the fact that people on his Facebook had linked the phrase Dante’s inferno to his Employer and the Claimant had gone on to make threatening comments about an employee who had reported him.
With the Tribunals still sitting on the fence somewhat with their judgements we would issue a word of caution to any employee before they make any hasty remarks on their profile. If many of your friends on Facebook know who you work for then any comments may be viewed in a more significant fashion and so it might be worth just thinking twice before sharing your views with the world.
- 2 Gill v SAS Ground Services UK Limited ET/2705021/093
- 3 Trasler v B and Q ET/1200504/2012
- 4 Whitham v Club 24 Limited t/a Ventura ET/1810462/2010
- 5 Weeks v Everything Everywhere Limited ET/2503016/2012