Last updated: 22.09.15

Social media misconduct can result in job dismissal

With the rise of social media in recent years, more people are creating their own personal accounts in a bid to keep up with current trends, share photos and communicate with friends. But posting comments on social media platforms could place the user in dangerous territory, with any bragging remarks or derogatory statements seen by employers resulting in job dismissal.

The most recent example comes from the social media misconduct case, Scottish Canals v Smith, which marks the first Scottish appeal tribunal decision surrounding the topic of social media behaviour.

The case involved an employee of Scottish Canals, who was dismissed from the company after posting on Facebook that he had been drinking alcohol while on duty, as well as making highly offensive and derogatory comments about his managers.

Smith's role within the company was a waterways operative, which involved being responsible for the maintenance and general upkeep of the five canals and reservoirs in Scotland.

One of his duties required being on standby so that he could respond to any emergency situations that occurred outside of the organisation's normal working hours. It was while Smith was on standby that he posted bragging remarks about drinking alcohol onto his Facebook account.

The former employee was under the impression that his Facebook account settings had been switched to 'private', meaning his page wasn't open to public viewing. He claimed that the comments were simply 'banter' between his friends and that he would not have posted the comments if he had known that his page was set to 'public'.

However, he was dismissed by the company and claimed unfair dismissal.

During the tribunal, it was decided that the dismissal was unfair because of mitigating factors that Scottish Canals had failed to have regard to. The company appealed and the Scottish Employment Appeal Tribunal held that Smith's dismissal was in fact fair.

It is advised that employers ensure their social media policies are communicated to staff effectively. This should apply not only to work conduct, but also at home.

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