The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) recently found in favour of an employee who had been dismissed for breaching the company's social media policy due to the fact that the social media policy had not been properly implemented and not all employees were fully aware of it.

Background

This case involved an employee, who was employed by the employer as a driver until his dismissal on 13 February 2014 for gross misconduct.

The employee videoed one of the employer's trucks being incorrectly loaded and shared it on a chat forum specifically for car transportation drivers. The employer claimed that as this video would damage the company's reputation with clients, the action constituted gross misconduct. The employer also alleged that the employee had been reprimanded for a similar offence earlier in his career with the company and that he had broken the social media policy which was introduced as a result of that earlier offence. The employee argued that he had not received the social media policy due to a change in his address and that there was no reference to social media in the employee handbook.

Decision

The EAT awarded the employee €7,500. It determined that the impugned conduct was not in dispute and therefore the disciplinary procedures followed by the employer were correct but that because of the employee's good record and admission of responsibility his dismissal was disproportionate.

Comment

William Fry's Employment Snapshot 2016 – Social Media in the Workplace, highlights that as of May 2016, only 39% of employers in Ireland have a social media policy in place. This case reinforces the importance of social media polices and the need for a social media policy to be implemented carefully within companies. Companies should furthermore ensure that employees are made aware of the policy in their initial employment contract, that they are aware of their obligations under the policy and that they fully understand the policy.