The use/abuse of social media at work is a growing trend to which employers should be alive. Below, in our ‘And finally…’ section, we highlight Acas guidance on social networking and a report on social media in the context of collective industrial relations.
In Whitham v Club 24 Ltd t/a Ventura, a tribunal held that an employee had been unfairly dismissed for making ‘relatively minor’ derogatory comments about her workplace on Facebook. She had made generic comments about her workplace being like a ‘nursery’ and referred to ‘bastards’ grinding her down at work. The exchange was reported by some of her colleagues, Ms Whitham was suspended and then dismissed for misconduct despite having apologised.
The tribunal which heard Ms Whitham’s unfair dismissal complaint felt that dismissal fell outside the band of reasonable responses and that Ms Whitham had been unfairly dismissed. There was no reference in the comments to clients or individuals nor was there evidence of any harm caused by the exchange. The decision contrasts with that in Preece v JD Wetherspoons plc in which an employee was held to have been fairly dismissed for having made derogatory comments about customers on Facebook. In that case, Wetherspoons were able to rely on its written policy which specified the sanctions for making derogatory comments in blogs about customers, fellow employees or the employer.
This case illustrates not only the importance of having a well drafted social media policy but also of assessing the real damage actually caused by any infringement.