Facebook, work, unfair dismissal and choosing friends carefully

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I’ve got a difficult, self imposed rule. I’d rather not be Facebook friends with work colleagues or clients. It’s not because I put anything on Facebook thats dodgy, immoral or edgy. It’s mostly food and my daughter. But I just don’t want everyone to know everything.

So it was with interest that I read about the employment tribunal case of Whitham v Club 24 Ltd t/a Ventura (with thanks to Wedlake Bell via Lexology)

Mrs Whitham was employed by Club 24 Ltd as a Team Leader for their client Skoda which is part of the Volkswagen group. After a particularly trying day at the office Whitham commented on her Facebook page “I think I work in a nursery and I do not mean working with plants”. A colleague responded to this post which prompted Whitham to reply “Don’t worry, takes a lot for the bastards to grind me down. LOL” An ex-employee then commented “Ya, work with a lot of planks though!!! LOL”, to which Whitham replied “2 true xx”.

Club 24 commenced disciplinary proceedings and Whitham was dismissed, mainly because they felt the comments could have damaged the relationship between Club 24 and Volkswagen. The justification for this was that the Facebook profile from which Whitham wrote her comments stated that she was an employee of Skoda UK, which, while not strictly true, could suggest that the employees of Skoda UK are at best, young, and at worst, infantile.

The Tribunal decided that she had been unfairly dismissed since sacking her for what they felt was a relatively mild comment on Facebook fell outside the band of reasonable responses. They noted that the comments on Facebook did not specifically refer to a client nor was there any evidence of any actual or likely harm to the relationship.

Now, the thing is she will still have lost her job albeit she now has some compensation.

Choosing your Facebook friends is important and so is having the right privacy settings. If a friend comments on your status, and your boss is friends with that friend, then on default settings your boss will see your post.

Equally on Twitter on must be careful to realize that all tweets are public and any replies get shown on your public timeline. So visit twitter.com/smather21and you’ll see everything I’ve don on Twitter. So when you think you’re replying to someone, know it’s public.

Having a social media policy as an Employer is an absolute must have for your employee handbook. Having one means that employers can set down in writing their expectations and employees know what they should and shouldn’t do.

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