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Dismissal and Dante’s Inferno – another Facebook case

Recently, there have been a number of Employment Tribunal cases focusing on employees’ Facebook posts. In Weeks v Everything Everywhere Limited, the claimant was dismissed after making posts that compared his employer to Dante’s Inferno.

Everything Everywhere Limited (EEL) employed Mr Weeks as a customer service adviser. Its social media policy warned employees to avoid making posts that could damage EEL’s reputation or be viewed as bullying and harassment.

Mr Weeks frequently made Facebook posts that likened EEL to Dante’s classical portrayal of Hell, such as “Dante’s awaits me – what a downer 12 hours of love and mirth“. Ms Lynn, one of his colleagues, reported these comments to Mr Groom, his line manager. Mr Groom formally warned Mr Weeks to stop posting in this manner.

After receiving the warning, Mr Weeks made posts which Ms Lynn found threatening. For example, he posted “it saddens me that people request to be your friend and then stab ya in the back – I’m a big believer in karma, what goes around comes around” and “no more words from me, next it’s action“. EEL suspended and later dismissed Mr Weeks for breach of its social media policy, and he raised a claim of unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr Weeks’ claim. It noted that many employees fail to appreciate the potential ramifications of their “private” online conduct, and that there is no reason why employers should treat misuse of social media differently to any other form of misconduct. The ET concluded that EEL were entitled to dismiss based on the potential reputational damage caused by Mr Weeks’ posts, and, in any case, his later posts constituted bullying towards Miss Lynn and justified dismissal.

The case is a further illustration that an employee’s conduct on Facebook – even if he or she feels it is “private” – can be misconduct. It is advisable for employers to have an up-to-date social media policy to protect themselves in such situations.

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