A pub manager has been found to have been fairly dismissed for gross misconduct by breaching her employer’s internet policy and making inappropriate comments about customers on Facebook. The claimant had signed a company policy that stated that she would not contribute anything to Facebook that would lower the reputation of the organisation, staff or customers.

In this case:

  • The claimant had been subjected to a ‘shocking torrent of verbal abuse and physical threats’ from a group of customers.
  • It was acknowledged that the claimant dealt with the situation professionally and that she had an excellent employment record with the respondent over the six years of her employment.
  • However, she was dismissed on the grounds that she had posted comments on Facebook whilst on her shift at work; a number of the comments were abusive, inappropriate and clearly about work as specific customers were named.

The claimant’s explanation that she had altered her privacy settings on Facebook and consequently thought that her comments were limited to a restricted group of school and work friends was immaterial.  

Comment: An increasing number of social networking cases are now being determined and employers are in a much stronger position if they have a very clear policy dealing with usage of social networking sites, either within a Computer Use Policy or via a separate Social Networking Policy.  

Preece v JD Wetherspoons plc