The duty of loyalty in employment relationships means, among other things, that employees are not allowed to act in a way that may be detrimental to their employers' profits or reputation. In a recent case, an industrial arbitration tribunal had to decide whether a LinkedIn post was justifiable grounds for the summary dismissal of an employee.

In the post in question, the employee, who was an underwriter at an insurance company, had written that he was looking for new career opportunities and challenges, and included his preferences for a potential new position. On the same day, his employer called him to a meeting and dismissed him without notice on the grounds that the post was disloyal to the extent that it amounted to gross misconduct.

The insurance company found it important that customers and business partners had contacted the insurance company about the post, perceiving its content as indirect criticism of the insurance company.

The employee's trade union brought the case before an industrial arbitration tribunal, claiming that the summary dismissal was disproportionate because, for example, the post did not contain comments that criticised the insurance company. The insurance company submitted that the post amounted to gross misconduct as it could be detrimental to the insurance company because, among other things, it reached a wide range of stakeholders in the insurance business.

The umpire summed up the arguments of the case, taking into account that the post had reached a large number of stakeholders, including customers of the insurance company. Based on the evidence, the umpire also considered that insurance customers generally value personal contact with their provider, which was one of the reasons that the company had decided that the employment relationship could not continue.

On the other hand, the insurance company was not mentioned in the post and the post did not contain negative comments regarding the insurance company or the working conditions.

On that basis, the post did not constitute a breach of duty that could justify dismissal without notice. Dismissal with notice, however, would have been justified, especially as the insurance company did not consider it possible to continue the employment relationship in light of the post.

Accordingly, the employee was entitled to receive his salary and other benefits associated with his employment during the notice period.

The tribunal's decision shows that employee conduct outside the workplace, including searching for a job, must be carried out with consideration for the nature of the employer's business. This is particularly true for employees in client-facing roles.

For further information on this topic please contact Christian K Clasen at Norrbom Vinding by telephone (+43 35 25 39 40) or email ([email protected]). The Norrbom Vinding website can be accessed at norrbomvinding.com.