Continuing our review of social media and tribunal claims, an Employment Tribunal (in the case of Plant v API Microelectronics Limited) recently considered whether the decision to dismiss fell within the range of reasonable responses.
The Claimant had been employed by the Respondent for 17 years and at the time of her dismissal she had a clean disciplinary record. In 2015, the Respondent introduced a social media policy which clearly stated the things that employees should not do when using such platforms. It also referred to how Facebook was not truly private and set out the potential outcomes of any breach. Later that year, the Respondent announced that it was moving, so tensions were high and the Claimant posted the following comment on Facebook:
‘PMSL bloody place I need to hurry up and sue them PMSL’
A disciplinary hearing was convened at which the Claimant stated that she did not realise that her Facebook account was linked to her employment, but that she did not believe that the comments were aimed at the Respondent in any event. However, she offered no alternative explanation other than they related to a private matter. She was dismissed and on appeal claimed that the comments were nothing to do with the Respondent, instead referring to a joke from years before.
The Claimant’s claims of unfair and wrongful dismissal were not upheld, with the Tribunal stating:
‘The Claimant was aware of the Policy and one assumes she read it. She must have been aware of what was and what was not allowed. The Claimant would have been aware of the consequences if she breached that policy. Despite this, her profile referred to her position within the Respondent as an operator and dogsbody. It was clearly a description of her job with the Respondent, clear to see it was derogatory and insulting, if not to the respondents then certainly to her colleagues occupying the same position. There is then a reference to that bloody place, the need to hurry up and sue them and pissing myself laughing. In the absence of an adequate explanation from the Claimant, which was sadly lacking, the Respondent was entitled to believe that these comments were aimed at it.’
Adelle Hutton, HR Consultant at EML, comments:
“This judgment reemphasises the importance of having a clear and robust social media policy in place. Had this not been the case in this instance, the outcome could have been very different for the employer. Many employees simply do not understand how their social media activity can impact on their employment. Employers need to set out what they consider to be unacceptable in this regard and what action it could result in. It is also advisable to carry out regular staff training in this regard, particularly where there is a high degree of social media use for marketing purposes.”