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Social Media

Employers appear to have won the right to dismiss workers for gross misconduct if they post defamatory comments about colleagues on social media networks.

A ruling by an industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland has found that a social networking site is a public forum, regardless of the users’ privacy settings. The particular case involved an employee making offensive comments on Facebook about a female colleague.

The ruling is the latest in an increasing number of tribunal cases involving employees making derogatory comments about their colleagues which could lead to employees

being dismissed for posting comments which could be considered bullying if made publicly in the workplace.

An employment law specialist, said: “Where Facebook was once seen as a private means of communication  amongst friends, employers can now be more confident in dismissing an employee should they post offensive or derogatory comments about co-workers or the company they work for following this ruling. The way in which people communicate has changed – no longer do people interact solely face-to-face. Talking on Facebook is now akin to talking by the water cooler.

“Writing such comments using any social media may justify dismissal for gross misconduct even if they are made on the employee’s own time. A user may have their privacy settings protected as ‘private’ however there is no privacy where comments can be copied and posted to others. Employees should be warned not to post comments on a social media platform that they wouldn’t feel comfortable posting on an office notice board.

Prestige recommend that at the very least employers have in place a  clear social media policy of which all employees are aware which warns that posting offensive comments may result in disciplinary action.


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