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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) recently held in the case of Game Retail Ltd v Laws that a Tribunal must take into account the public nature of Twitter when deciding whether or not an employee’s dismissal for posting offensive tweets was unfair.

In this case, the original Tribunal, which ruled that Mr Laws was unfairly dismissed, did not properly consider whether the employee’s purported use of Twitter was truly private, given that he knew he was followed by 65 of his employer’s stores.  The court suggested that Twitter has a more public nature than Facebook, making dismissals relating to offensive tweets potentially easier to defend for employers than similar posts on Facebook.

EAT social media guidance

Whilst the Employment Appeal Tribunal became involved in this case, it has declined to offer official guidance for social media unfair dismissal cases, as each case would have to be judged by its own specific facts within the context of the post, which may have been made on various different social media platforms.

Advice for employers

Employers are already facing difficult decisions over how to deal with cases of employees using social media inappropriately.  It appears that even the rich and famous cannot escape being caught out by their employers for posting inappropriate comments over social media – such as in the case where footballer Rio Ferdinand was recently fined £25,000 and suspended from three matches by the FA, because of an inappropriate tweet.