Can your social media posts affect your job?
In this article, our employment law experts, explores how the way you use, and post on, your personal social media accounts can affect your career.
22 July 2021
Can I be dismissed from my role for what I post on social media?
It has recently been that actions have been taken against employees who reacted in a derogatory manner on social media following England’s defeat in the Euro 2020 final, triggering questions around what authority employers have on your personal social media posts and how these can have a damaging effect on your career.
Case law has shown that employees comments posted online may amount to misconduct and can be a potentially fair reason for dismissal.
An employee posting derogatory or discriminatory comments unrelated to work could potentially reflect negatively on the company, especially where the comments are accessible by other employees, clients or potential clients and bring their reputation into disrepute. Each case where a post of such manner has been identified should be looked at on a fact-by-fact basis, though the legal test for is whether the employer's decision is within the band of reasonable responses following the correct procedure and investigation.
How have such cases progressed previously?
The social posts that derived from the Euro 2020 final aren’t the first instance of employees coming under investigation.
In Plant v API Microelectronics Limited, the employment tribunal found that the employees’ dismissal over derogatory comments she made on Facebook had been fair, even though she was a long-serving employee with an otherwise clean disciplinary record. The key point in this case is that the employer had in place a social media policy that clearly set out examples of unacceptable behaviour.
In Austin v A1M Retro Classics Ltd, an employment tribunal held that the employee had not committed an act of gross misconduct when he posted comments about an opinion of his boss on Facebook and that his dismissal was both unfair and wrongful. This case demonstrated the claimant could not be held responsible for the discussion that took place in the comments section of his post, which included homophobic slurs.
How do I protect myself from this occurring?
Social media isn’t going anywhere, and companies often have protections in place to safeguard their business and reputation.
It’s important to remember that one tweet or post can reach an audience far beyond what was intended or expected, even if the profile is set to private. Posts can easily be shared by a quick click of the button or even a screenshot. We highly recommend that you consider the following before making a social post:
1. Check and review the company’s social media policy.
2. Check your privacy restrictions (although those who can view it may report you).
3. Be mindful of making any comments that:
- Are abusive or offensive in nature
- Criticise your employer or their clients/customers
- Amount to bullying or harassment
4. If you have posted something in the heat of the moment, you should consider removing these posts immediately.
My employer has highlighted a comment I’ve made on social media, what shall I do?
Each case will depend on its own facts. If you are currently facing a disciplinary meeting at work because of something you posted on social media or online, our specialist employment solicitors will be happy to help and provide you with expert guidance on your circumstances.