Anti-social media: How an ill-advised post can have serious consequences
Whilst it is sometimes entertaining to read about the latest celeb spat on Twitter, ill advised posts can have serious consequences.
Two recent Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) considered the issue, the first looking at (and rejecting) an unfair dismissal claim brought by an employee who sent a Snapchat video where it appeared he was taking drugs in work uniform (and in what appeared to be a work toilet). One assumes he did not intend to do so, but it was sent to friends and colleagues.
The EAT concluded there were significant weaknesses with the process his employer followed and that it was not conducted “with any regard to normal and fair practices and procedures” as the employee was essentially given the choice between an investigation/disciplinary process and resignation. However, their ultimate conclusion was that it was not unfair taking into account the steps the employer did take and the serious nature of the employee’s conduct.
In the second case, an employee was compensated after he was dismissed having made a derogatory Facebook post about his store manager. The employee offered to resign and made a full apology but was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.
The EAT again identified problems with the procedure followed and in particular that there was insufficient consideration of alternatives to dismissal. Compensation was, however, lower than it might have been, taking into what the employee did. The decisions confirm that ill-advised social media usage continue to present risks for employers and employees alike and can have consequences not envisaged at the point of posting.
Employees need to be careful about what they post, particularly where a link can be made with their employer and employers need to ensure their policies are up to date and well publicised. Companies may want to include specific provisions about cyber bullying and a link to other harassment and disciplinary procedures.
In 2013 UNISON indicated in anti-bullying guidance that cyber bullying is more common than face to face acts and suggested that eight out of ten workers had experienced cyber bullying in the last six months with some experiencing it on a daily basis. Clearly abuse of social media is an issue which is not going to go away and a fact sheet on cyber threats and social media is available via the Brachers Employment and HR website page.