More Facebook Dangers
A Food Inspector who was dismissed from his position after ‘liking’ a Facebook post about his boss being attacked with a chair, has been found to have been unfairly dismissed at an Employment Tribunal and has been awarded over £32,000 compensation.
Alan Blue from Scotland was dismissed by the Food Standards Agency after joining in with the banter with two ex-work mates on the popular social networking site, which made reference to his manager being assaulted. The two ex-employees had recently been dismissed and Alan had joined in a conversation with the pair on Facebook, which then led to Alan ‘liking’ a comment that one of the men made about his manager being hit over the head with a chair.
When the Facebook posts were shown to Alan’s managers at work they complained to the FSA. This then resulted in Alan being dismissed after 20 years’ service in his position. The FSA launched a disciplinary investigation into the matter, claiming that the posts were a “breach of trust” and “not professional”. The FSA also claimed all of its employees had been issued with guidance on the use of social media, however once the case proceeded to a tribunal, it was found that this guidance primarily related to use at work.
The tribunal deemed that Alan had an exemplary record at work and there were no objective reasons to believe that his future performance would be any different merely due to his participation in what he had mistakenly believed to be a private online conversation.
Alan was awarded a total of £32,799.13 – including £4,560.96 for breach of contract and £28,238.17 for unfair dismissal. He had asked to be reinstated with the agency, but the judge rejected his request.
This case acts as a warning to employers who use social media to ‘check up’ on employees outside of work time. Employers are reminded to ensure that all email and internet policies are reviewed and cover use of social networking sites.