I noticed this article in the MailOnline last week which underlines the inherent dangers of flippant use of social media forums.
Teacher Sonya McNally posted a comment on her Facebook page, responding to another teacher’s gripes about children at their school: “By the way, 8G1 are just as bad as 8G2. LOL”.
Ms McNally soon found a letter of suspension on her doormat. At a disciplinary hearing the teacher was shown a print out of her Facebook profile page. The panel considered her comments to have brought the school into disrepute and she was consequentially dismissed.
One of the interesting aspects of this story is the fact that McNally tried to defend herself at the disciplinary hearing on the basis that her Facebook privacy setting meant that only her friends could read what was written on the page. However, it was in fact a colleague and Facebook “friend” of Ms McNally that had reported the comments to her employers.
With the average Facebook user having 130 friends, even the highest privacy setting won’t preclude an ill-advised status update reaching a relatively broad audience, and herein lies the danger for employees of posting details regarding their job. Whilst Ms McNally’s post may have seemed to be anonymous enough, with no mention of the school involved or any pupils’ names, her employer clearly took the view that she had crossed a line.
There is no suggestion in the article that an unfair dismissal claim has been raised but, on the information available, it is by no means certain that the employer would successfully defend the claim if one was raised. My own view is that, on the information available, dismissal as a sanction in these circumstances might well be considered to be outwith the range of reasonable responses. However, it may be that there is more to the case than is reported. From an employer’s perspective, as ever, it is essential that there are clear policies governing the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook and making clear what is and is not acceptable.