Social media and the workplace recipe for disaster

Mary Gavin

19 August 2015

Is it unfair to dismiss an employee for comments made on Facebook which he claimed were untrue? In the case of British Waterways Board v Smith it was held that it was not unfair to dismiss an employee for making derogatory comments about managers and work on Facebook, despite the employee’s claim that the comments were untrue.  

Mr Smith had basically taken to social media to vent his annoyance and frustrations with his work and managers. He used what can only be described as offensive language when referring to managers and had claimed that two years earlier he had been drinking whilst on standby duty, vodka and apple juice to be precise, which he referred to as “not to shabby” (sic). Whilst he denied that he had been drinking and claimed that the comments were banter, he was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct as his comments had undermined the confidence his employer or the public could have in him.

It was initially found by the employment tribunal that the employer should have considered that the claimant’s comments were exaggerated or not true however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned that decision and held that the dismissal was fair.

Employees should be careful about what they post on social media as although comments regarding work may be meant as a joke or used as an avenue to vent frustrations it can have drastic implications. If you require employment law advice please contact Mary Gavin on 028 9024 3901 or email at mgavin@fhanna.co.uk.