Successful Appeal in Social Media Case
In Laws v Game Retail Limited an Employment Tribunal (ET) ruled that a dismissal as a result of posting offensive tweets on Twitter was unfair. In reaching the decision the Employment Tribunal concluded that the tweets were posted for private use and it had never been established that any member of the public or a colleague had access to the claimant's tweets.
In overturning the ruling the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decided that the ET had failed to take full account of the public nature of Twitter and that the Judge's suggestion that the employee's followers were restricted to social acquaintances was wrong.
The EAT declined to provide general guidance on social media cases but instead referred to the well established test of whether the dismissal fell within the "range of reasonable responses" and pointed out that in social media cases, as in other unfair dismissal cases, the issues will always be fact sensitive.
There have been a number of first instance decisions at the ET relating to unfair dismissal as a result of acts on social media, these cases, along with the EAT case above, evidence that there is no separate law relating to conduct on social media and that the usual principles of unfair dismissal will apply.
There are steps an employer can take to protect their business and, if necessary, punish an employee for offensive posts, for example, putting an appropriate social media policy in place.
Rollits is holding a workshop on "social media misconduct and related data protection issues" on Tuesday 10 February 12pm - 2pm. To book please email Pat Coyle at email@example.com (including in the subject line "Social media misconduct") or call on 01482 337318 to reserve your place.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.