Football in Spain is big and never more so than now. In the last four years the Spanish national football team has won no less than three major championships: the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
As you can imagine there was an explosion of happiness when “la Roja” reached the top of the world (again!) and the celebrations to mark the team’s success involved not only Spanish people both inside and outside the country, but many others who were happy to mark such a fantastic achievement. The celebrations brought together people of all ages, beliefs, religions, races and political orientation and as a Madrid resident it was simply marvellous to observe. The team’s success united a country which is not always as united as it should be, especially in these difficult economic times.
But sometimes such celebrations can go too far, as highlighted in a recent decision of the Superior Employment Court of Andalusia. In Emilia v Cecosa Supermarkets, a store manager was dismissed after uploading photographs on Facebook of herself and another employee celebrating Spain’s victory at the 2010 World Cup. The employees were pictured wearing Spanish football-style t-shirts, but it was also possible to see their company ID tag, including its corporate logo and colours. There could be no doubt who they worked for! The photographs were taken in the back office of the store and clearly showed the employer’s safe, various documents containing confidential information, as well as the store’s IT system and security alarm. To make things worse, the employees were pictured lying on the General Manager’s desk surrounded by that day’s cash takings (which should have been safely locked away in the safe) pretending to play cards and drink alcohol! The manager was promptly dismissed. The company argued that it had lost trust and confidence in her and that her actions had placed the supermarket at risk – anybody looking at the photographs could see the type and location of the safe and of the alarm system. Clearly as a manager she should have known better.
When this matter came before the Court, it held (unsurprisingly) that the manager’s dismissal was fair and said it was irrelevant that the store had not suffered any actual financial loss or damage. Equally, it did not matter that the employee had posted the images outside working hours and on her own equipment. Her actions in posting these photographs on a social media site had potentially damaged the store’s image and placed it at risk by showing the security arrangements in place. She has also demonstrated a frankly world class lack of judgement on her own part, casting obvious doubt on her suitability for a managerial role.
For Spanish employers, it is potentially fair to dismiss an employee for posting inappropriate images (or comments for that matter) on a social media site, even if it is a personal site and the posting takes place outside working hours. The key thing is to be able to demonstrate the potentially adverse impact of the employee’s conduct, e.g. to personal and corporate reputation or security. It is always advisable to have a social media policy in place which makes it clear what employees can and cannot do when using social media inside or outside the workplace.