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Dismissal for derogatory comments about employer on Facebook fair

Makbool Javaid
wetherspoons

In Plant v API Microelectronics Limited, Plant (P) had been employed for 17 years and had a clean disciplinary record. The employer’s Social Media Policy provides a non-exhaustive list of the sort of things that employees should not be doing, which includes making comments that could damage the reputation of the company, its products, services or its employees. The policy also reminds employees that conversations between friends on Facebook are not truly private and can still have the potential to cause damage. The policy concludes by stating that breaches may lead to disciplinary action and serious breaches will be regarded as gross misconduct, which may lead to summary dismissal.

Colleagues made the employer aware that P had posted inappropriate comments on Facebook. The employer discovered that P’s Facebook profile is linked to API Technology, her job title is described as “general dogsbody at API Technologies Great Yarmouth” and a comment had been posted stating “PMSL bloody place I need to hurry up and sue them PMSL” (PMSL relates to ‘pissing myself laughing’). At a disciplinary hearing, P did not dispute the comments, explained that she didn’t realise her Facebook was linked to the employer and said she did not believe that the comments were aimed at the company. P was dismissed for a breach of the Social Media Policy in that she had made derogatory comments clearly aimed at the employer and had provided no adequate explanation.

An ET found P’s dismissal to be fair. P admitted she made the comments and gave no real explanation for doing so at the disciplinary hearing. P was aware of the Social Media Policy and what was and what was not allowed. P would also have been aware of the consequences if she breached that policy. But her profile referred to her position at API as a ‘dogsbody’, which was derogatory and insulting if not to the employer, then certainly to colleagues occupying the same position. There was also the reference to that ‘bloody place’ and the need to ‘hurry up and sue them’ and ‘pissing myself laughing’. Amongst other things the company viewed P’s behaviour as a breakdown in trust. The employer had taken account of P’s long service and clear record and while dismissal may be seen as harsh, being dismissed for a clear breach of policy fell within the range of a reasonable responses.


This update provides summary information and comment on the subject areas covered. Where employment tribunal and appellate court cases are reported, the information does not set out all of the facts, the legal arguments presented and the judgments made in every aspect of the case. Click on the links to access full details. If no link is provided, contact us for more information.  Employment law is subject to constant change either by statute or by interpretation by the courts. While every care has been taken in compiling this information, SM&B cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Specialist legal advice must be taken on any legal issues that may arise before embarking upon any formal course of action.

 

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