Sacked because of Facebook
In Preece v JD Wetherspoons plc, an ET decided that Ms Preece, a pub manager, was fairly dismissed for gross misconduct having made inappropriate comments on Facebook about her customers. These comments were in breach of Wetherspoon's e-mail and internet policy.
Ms Preece was employed by the pub chain under a contract which specifically allowed the company to take disciplinary action should the contents of any blog (including comments on Facebook) were found to “lower the reputation of the organisation, staff or customers...” under the e-mail and internet policy. Whilst on a shift, two customers verbally abused and threatened Ms Preece and she then commented negatively about this on Facebook. These comments were open for all to see (although Ms Preece thought that the comments were private) and the daughter of one of the customers complained to Wetherspoons. As a result, Ms Preece was dismissed for gross misconduct as she was deemed to be in breach of the internet and e-mail policy. Ms Preece’s claim for unfair dismissal was rejected as the ET determined that the company’s response fell within the band of reasonable responses. This said, the ET did comment that it would have been inclined to award a final written warning.
This case demonstrates how useful a well drafted internet/social media policy can be - without the policy it would have be more difficult for the company to dismiss Ms Preece. Furthermore, it is important that the policy should be updated over time to address new trends in social media.
In June, Doyle Clayton will be holding a seminar called “Social networking – threat, or opportunity?”, in which we will explore the opportunities and dangers to business through various forms of social networking, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and provide some practical solutions. If you would like further information about the seminar, then please contact Gemma Ford on 0118 959 6839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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