A recent case on use of Social Media and Dismissal

11th February 2015
A recent case on use of Social Media and Dismissal image

A recent case on use of Social Media and Dismissal

The use of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc) is increasing and employers cannot ignore the potential effect of it.  As employers you need to know what action you can take against employees who commit social-media related misconduct either in the course of their work or in their personal life.

There has been a recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) which gives some help in this regard, although employers should be aware that all cases are fact sensitive.

In Game Retail Limited –v- Laws, Mr Laws was employed as a risk and loss prevention investigator with responsibility for over 100 retail stores.  He opened a personal Twitter account and began to follow the Twitter accounts of those stores in order to monitor their activity, although his account did not specifically associate him with his employer.  One local manager in fact tweeted an encouragement to other stores to follow Mr Laws and 65 stores did so.

About 12 months after the Twitter account was opened, an anonymous store manager notified one of Game’s regional managers about allegedly offensive and abusive tweets that Mr Laws had posted.  An investigation was conducted and Mr Laws was found guilt of gross misconduct.  He was summarily dismissed and Mr Laws made a complaint to an Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal.

At first instance the Employment Tribunal Judge found in Mr Laws favour.  He examined the tweets in detail and accepted that customers and employees of Game might have been shocked or offended by them.  However he considered that two main factors made the dismissal unfair.  Firstly the tweets were posted for private use and it had never been established that any member of the public or employee of Game had access to Mr Law’s tweets or associated him with Game and secondly the employer’s disciplinary policy did not clearly state that inappropriate use of social media in private time would or could be treated as gross misconduct.

Game appealed to the EAT.  The EAT allowed the appeal and remitted the case back to the Employment Tribunal for a re-Hearing by a different Judge.

The EAT held that the Judge’s suggestion that Mr Laws’ followers were restricted to social acquaintances was wrong. The 65 stores that had followed Mr Laws and would have seen the tweets and any customers who had picked up on Mr Laws’ account, perhaps after his account was recommended by a local manager, would have seen them to.  Although there is a balance to be drawn between an employer’s desire to remove or reduce reputational risks from social media communications by its employees and the employee’s right of freedom and expression, and although it might be relevant that social media use is intended to be private, in this instance the Employment Judge did not properly test the question of whether Mr Laws’ usage was indeed private.  He had failed to consider the implication of Mr Laws’ followers including 65 stores and the fact that he was knowingly posting the offending tweets in that context.

Daven Naghen, head of our employment team, has commented as follows upon this case:-

“In this instance the “offensive” tweets appear to have been seen by at least one colleague of Mr Laws, and were also readily accessible for other co-workers as well as possibly customers.  The nature of the tweets were therefore potentially very damaging to the reputation of the employer, and therefore there may have been good grounds for a dismissal here with the following of a proper procedure.

It would have undoubtedly helped the employer here had there been a clear social media policy giving guidance on the sort of conduct that is acceptable or non-acceptable on social-media sites.

Tribunals will take into account many factors in assessing whether a social-media related dismissal is fair.  Such factors will include:-

(i)         The nature and severity of the comments made by an employee;

(ii)         The subject matter of those comments;

(iii)        The extent of any actual or potential damage to the employer’s reputation;

(iv)        Whether there has been a breach of confidentiality;

  • Whether the employer has a social media policy and whether employees have been

given training in that policy; and

  • Whether the comments made by the employee were made during working hours

and/or using the employer’s equipment.

In any such situation the employer should ensure that a full and fair disciplinary process is followed and that a fair and objective consideration is given to these factors in order to minimise the risk of an employee making a successful claim for unfair dismissal.”

If you need guidance regarding social-media related misconduct or advice in respect of a social-media policy then please contact Daven of either 01775 722261 or email grant at daven.naghen@maplessolicitors.com or write to or visit our offices at 23 New Road Spalding Lincolnshire PE11 1DH.


How Banks are Cashing in on Wills image

How Banks are Cashing in on Wills

Recent headlines have reported how banks are now cashing in on Wills.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, banks offered customers low cost Wills (or sometimes even free Wills) but the small print allowed the bank to charge extortionate rates to act as Executors. It is reported that banks are expecting billions of pounds of revenue from their Will writing services and administering estates and in some cases their fees have been over £12,000 to administer an estate as they look to charge a fixed fee PLUS a percentage of the deceased’s wealth.

If you or a loved one has made a Will through a bank we would urge you to check who you have appointed as Executors and check any small print which you may have signed. If you are unsure then please speak with one of our lawyers in the Wills and Probate team who can look at your existing Will with you. It may be appropriate to make a new Will which revokes any previous Will you have made which could save your family thousands of pounds when your estate needs to be administered.

In the majority of cases, when someone has passed away we can provide the family with a quote of how much the legal fees will be so that there are no nasty surprises once the administration is complete.

Read More

Testimonials

Gemma Mayer LLB

"I would highly recommend Maples Solicitors, especially Gemma Mayer, for any conveyancing work. The level of support and professionalism was excellent at all times. I also felt if I needed to ask or clarify anything that it was not an issue. Buying and selling a house is stressful enough, but Gemma helped me through it step by step."

Anita Toal LLB BA

"I think you are brilliant. You can use my comments above. You are efficient, friendly and quite clearly very good at what you do. Mainly you don’t leave people hanging around too long for." "So easy to talk to her and she understood what I wanted. She put me at ease and I cant thank her enough"

Daven Naghen LLB

"Daven provided an excellent service, from attending the first interview with me to the final court appearance. He filled me full of confidence that he would defend me to which he did and come out with an excellent outcome in view of my position that I had put myself in."

Faye Blair LLB

Faye was excellent, sensitive and acted very well to the time constraints we faced. Great service and dealt with compassion at such sad times made the process less painful very professional.

Jamie Dobbs ACILEx

Over the last forty years I have cause to deal with many law firms both in a personal and professional capacity, including some ‘top’ London Companies. In all of those dealings I have never found anyone as proactive and so willing to offer help and advice as Jamie Dobbs. During the last two years Jamie guided my parents through the completion of Lasting Powers of Attorney. Helped myself with the use of the LPA and recently dealing with Probate and Estate Administration following their death.

Mike Pepper MA

Mike Pepper gave us excellent advice. He was always most helpful and accommodating giving lucid explanations every step of the way. Thank you Mike.

Claire Smith FCILEx

Claire Smith has been amazing in every way. I highly recommend her and I am so grateful for all her help. She’s professional on all levels, reliable, extremely organised and I will be recommending her to everyone. I’m very lucky to have had her representing me and I can’t thank her enough. She is an asset to Maples. Thanks so much Claire!