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Dismissal for inappropriate use of social media

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

A recent tribunal case highlights the importance for employers of educating their employees about the implications of writing inappropriate or offensive comments on social media sites. The Northern Ireland industrial tribunal held that the dismissal of an employee for making vulgar comments about the promiscuity of a female colleague on their Facebook page was reasonable in the circumstances and was therefore fair.

Although the comments did not bring the employer’s reputation into serious disrepute, the harassment of a colleague was sufficiently serious on its own to justify the dismissal of the employee for gross misconduct.  Employees will struggle to establish that they have a reasonable expectation of privacy for comments made on Facebook as, even if their Facebook page is only open to “friends”, comments can be copied and passed on to others.

Our checklist sets out the risks a business and its employees should be aware of when using the internet and e-mail at work.

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