Tag Archives: emails

The perils of social media

 

There are a lot of good things about social media, the speed, the scope, the varied audience and the immediacy of communicating a message to large numbers of people and businesses around the world.

One major problem with both social media, emails and the internet is the simple fact that it is very difficult to take back or delete comments, messages or data made by individuals which may come back to cause them or others harm.

A recent employment tribunal case highlights this very issue.

Mr Smith was sacked by his employer, the British Waterways Board for gross misconduct once evidence came to light that 2 year’s previously he had posted derogatory comments about his supervisors and admitted drinking alcohol whilst on standby on his personal Facebook account.

This was despite Mr Smith having an unblemished service record and the company being aware of his misconduct for some time.

Mr Smith described his supervisors as “w******, f*****, p***** and c****” on Facebook.

The company found that Mr Smith had made derogatory comments about the company as an employer and had claimed to be drinking alcohol whilst on standby, bringing his capabilities into question and leaving the company open to condemnation in a public forum.

The company had a social media policy which prohibited any action on the internet which might embarrass or discredit the company, including defamation of third parties including posting comments on bulletin boards or chat rooms.

Despite this, the employment tribunal decided that the dismissal was unfair on the basis that the decision to dismiss Mr Smith was “outside the band of reasonable responses which a reasonable employer might have adopted”.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed and found the dismissal to be fair on the basis that it was fair to dismiss Mr Smith for his comments on Facebook alone, even though they were two years old and the employer had knowledge.

Comment

This case follows previous decisions (see http://osjlaw.co.uk/employee-sacked-for-sending-lewd-emails/) and is ultimately a strong reminder to employers on the importance of having and maintaining an effective social media policy and to employees of using their brains before posting online at anytime during their employment.

It is also a reminder to employee’s that you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It is also good news for employer’s in that a failure to respond to an employee’s earlier act of misconduct will not necessarily mean that they will lose the opportunity to take action at a later date.  It also shows that a well written and policed social media policy can have teeth and save both legal fees and protect businesses from abuse by disgruntled staff.

If you need further advice on this blog whether you are a Business or an Individual, please send an email, (william.addis@keystonelaw.co.uk) or call me, on my mobile 07767 166705 or 0207152 6550 (London office number).

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Employee sacked for sending lewd emails

A recent High Court case (Williams v Leeds United Football Club) has decided that an employer was entitled to summarily dismiss an employee, who was already serving 12 months’ notice of redundancy, when it discovered that, five years previously, he had forwarded a pornographic e-mail to a junior colleague and two external contacts.

The Court held that the employer, Leeds United Football Club, was entitled to treat this conduct as a repudiation of the contract of employment, despite the fact that it was looking for a reason to justify immediate dismissal.

W was employed by LUFC as technical director from 2006 onwards. He was paid a salary of £200,000 per annum, terminable on 12 months’ notice. In 2013, LUFC began a restructuring exercise, which identified W’s post as being at risk. Concurrent to this exercise, the managing officers had decided to start investigations into a number of senior managers, including W, to see if evidence could be found that would justify dismissing them on grounds of gross misconduct, thereby avoiding any obligation to pay lengthy notice in the event of redundancy. This investigation extended to appointing a firm of forensic investigators to trawl through LUFC’s e-mail system.

On 22 July 2013, the managing director was instructed to stop all payments to W, even though this would be in breach of contract. The next day, W was given was given written notice of the termination of his employment by reason of redundancy. On 24 July, the forensic investigators reported to LUFC that they had discovered one e-mail containing lewd images, which had been received by W on 28 March 2008 and forwarded by him that same day. LUFC wrote to W, requiring that he attend a disciplinary hearing on 29 July. He did not attend, and was summarily dismissed by letter dated 30 July. W pursued a claim before the High Court, contending that he had been wrongfully dismissed and was entitled to the salary he would have received during his 12 month notice period.

The High Court dismissed the claim. It observed that, at the time of dismissal, LUFC was under the apprehension that W had forwarded the e-mail to just one person – a former colleague, and close friend, who now held a senior role at another club. However, before the Court it transpired that the e-mail had also been forwarded to a junior female employee at LUFC, and to a second former colleague. This conduct, viewed objectively, was sufficiently serious to warrant summary dismissal. Indeed, the act of forwarding the e-mail to a junior colleague would itself be sufficiently serious, since it had exposed the employer to the possibility of a claim for sexual harassment.

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2015/376.html