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Facebook – can you be dismissed for what you post?

Facebook- can you be dismissed for what you post?

The simple answer is yes, you can be fairly dismissed for what you post online. If the post is capable of constituting gross misconduct, the employer’s disciplinary rules are clear and a proper procedure is followed, dismissal can be fair.

Posting inappropriate comments online, e.g. discriminatory views, can lead to dismissal. It does not matter if comments are made on a home computer, as employers can discipline employees for conduct that occurs outside of the workplace if it affects their ability to do their job – Singh v London Country Bus Services Ltd [1976] IRLR 175).

Criticising your employer online can also lead to dismissal. To

justify dismissal, an employer would have to show that the comments are likely to damage their reputation or business.

Employers must consider whether the ‘post’ was private. A tribunal held in Crisp v Apple Retail UK Limited (unreported ET/1500258/2011) that, when an employee posted derogatory posts on Facebook about his employer, he had no reasonable expectation that the posts would remain private. Dismissing an employee who reasonably expected that their Facebook posts would be private can still be justified by an employer as protecting their own rights e.g. their reputation.
Action taken to discipline an employee should be reasonable and employers should be careful not to overreact. For example, if the employee apologises and immediately removes the post then dismissing him could be unfair – Stephens v Halfords plc (unreported ET/1700796/10).

Employers should have a clear policy on social media use and employees should be very careful about what they post on Facebook.

Geoffrey Bignell, Chairman of Just Employment Solicitors

Geoffrey Bignell, Chairman, Just Employment Solicitors

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