An employment tribunal has upheld an employer’s decision to sack a long-serving employee over comments she made on Facebook, which were in breach of her employer’s social media policy.
The employee, Mrs Plant, had worked for API Microelectronics Limited as a machinery operator for 17 years. She’d had no disciplinary issues during that time. During the course of her employment, Mrs Plant’s employer introduced a social media policy. This provided staff with examples of what it considered to be unacceptable social media activity. This included posting comments that could harm the company’s reputation.
Staff warned over Facebook’s privacy settings
The company’s social media policy specified that employees should not rely on Facebook’s privacy settings. It’s possible for others to copy and forward comments without permission. The policy made it clear that any breaches could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal.
After the company announced details of a possible move of premises, Mrs Plant posted a comment on her Facebook page. She said, “PMSL bloody place I need to hurry up and sue them PMSL.”
API Microelectronics Limited invited Mrs Plant to attend a disciplinary hearing. She argued that she didn’t know that her Facebook page connected to her employer’s system. She also added that she hadn’t intended to aim her comments at the company. However, she did accept that her comment breached her employer’s social media policy. She admitted to not reviewing her Facebook profile since her employer introduced the policy. She accepted that because of this, family and friends could easily forward on her comment to other people.
Clear breach of policy
The tribunal ruled that because Mrs Plant knew about the social media policy, she would have known what was unacceptable. Furthermore, Mrs Plant failed to provide an adequate explanation for her actions. This meant her employer could believe that the comments referred to them. It acknowledged that the ruling may seem harsh, especially given the employee’s long standing employment and good record. But Mrs Plant had clearly breached her employer’s policy and therefore her employer could respond with a dismissal.