A recent employment appeal case again highlighted the use and misuse of social media within the workplace. How difficult it is to strike a balance between the need for an employer to protect its reputation and for an employee to enjoy freedom of expression.
In this case an employee with 16 years service was unfairly dismissed for posting offensive remarks on his Twitter account. It was accepted the remarks were of a personal nature and that they were posted during his personal time. The tweets did, however, use offensive language and could be viewed by the public and other staff alike. The account itself did not reveal the name of the employer.
On the employers appeal, the matter has been referred back to the tribunal for further consideration. As a result, for those seeking to formulate a policy, the appeal tribunal made it clear:
Each case remains wholly dependent on its own facts and resisted the plea to outline some guidance to be applied in future cases
The comments were all personal views albeit capable of being seen by other staff and indeed other staff being encouraged to ‘follow’ this particular employee
The lack of policy that may have covered these particular circumstances i.e that which referred to personal use of social media
Where does this leave us? With very few higher tribunal cases, the answer is, really not very far. It remains a matter of each case being decided on its facts and circumstances and employers continuing to balance the rights of all parties while perhaps looking again at their own policies. There is no doubt that this continues to be a challenge in the workplace.
At Law Express we continue to advice on these cases and for further
assistance please do not hesitate to call on 01275 378715.