Employee fairly dismissed for comments on Facebook

Using social media such as Facebook can be a great way to communicate, but there are an increasing number of Employment cases which highlight some of the dangers. What someone posts on social media sites could result in disciplinary action or dismissal. A recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (British Waterways Board v Smith) gave judgement that it was fair to dismiss an employee for comments made on Facebook, even when the employee claimed the comments were untrue.

The employee in that case had made derogatory comments on Facebook about his managers and work, and the employee also claimed that two years earlier he had been drinking whilst on standby. During a standby period, employees were not allowed to consume alcohol. Whilst the employee denied that he had in fact been drinking, and claimed that the comments were banter, he was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct as his comments had undermined the confidence his employer or the public could have in him.

The Employment Tribunal initially made the decision that the dismissal was unfair. One of the reasons given was that the employer had failed to take in to account that some people exaggerate or make things up on Facebook.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) however overturned that decision and held that the dismissal was fair.

This is the latest in a long line of cases dealing with dismissals as a result of what an employee posts on Facebook. The lesson for Employers is look out for comments that your employees make on social media and consider how it might affect your reputation or other employees. The lesson for Employees is be careful what you say on social media. You can never be absolutely sure who will read your comment.

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