There has been a number of recent cases involving employees
being dismissed for their inappropriate use of social media
websites including making derogatory comments about their employer
or workplace on Facebook. In two key cases, against Apple Retail
(UK) Limited and JD Wetherspoons plc, the employment tribunal
decided that the employees were fairly dismissed and in both these
cases, it was specifically noted that the employer had a clearly
defined policy which warned employees that they would be subject to
disciplinary action including dismissal if they engaged in such
activity. This would apply whether or not the comments were posted
during work time.
In another case decided in the Northern Ireland Tribunal in
March this year, the Claimant was an employee who was dismissed for
making comments about a colleague . Mr Teggart was employed as a
customer service representative by TeleTech UK Limited in its
Belfast call centre. He posted an obscene comment about the
promiscuity of one of his female colleagues on his Facebook page
whilst at home. The comment mentioned TeleTech and was read by his
Facebook friends, some of whom included his work colleagues. These
did not include the female colleague in question but she heard
about the comment and asked him to remove it. He then posted a
further lewd comment about her and the matter finally came to the
attention of his employers.
Following a disciplinary hearing, Mr Teggart was dismissed for
gross misconduct for harassment of a fellow employee and for
bringing the company's name into disrepute by using its name in
connection with his comments. The company's disciplinary rules,
code of conduct and dignity at work policies all provided that
harassment and unwelcome sexual behaviour would be regarded as
misconduct which may result in immediate dismissal. Whilst the
tribunal rejected the company's argument that its reputation
had been tarnished, it did agree that Mr Teggart's conduct
warranted dismissal because it amounted to serious sexual
harassment of a colleague and breached the company's policies .
Whilst Mr Teggart argued his right to freedom of expression,
relying on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the
Tribunal rejected this argument. It ruled that the right to freedom
of expression in Article 10 of ECHR must be exercised responsibly
and did not entitle him to make comments which were hurtful and at
the same time infringed her right not to suffer harassment.
The decision provides some comfort for employers faced with the
widespread practice of employees using social media to comment
about their jobs and work colleagues. We would advise that
employers conduct a review of any policies they have in this regard
and if they have none, immediate steps should be taken to put in
place a fully comprehensive policy on the use of both email and
social media and make staff aware of the possible consequences of
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In October 2012, the Court of Appeal confirmed that a Service Provision Change ("SPC") TUPE transfer can only occur where the client who receives the service, before and after the change, remains the same (Hunter v McCarrick  EWCA Civ 1399).