social media

Social Media, Employees and the Public Interest



Most discussion about the use of social media in the workplace focuses on employees making abusive or inappropriate comments on Facebook or Twitter, or the need for employers to have a social media policy to educate or guide employees on what is acceptable.  Many employees who do fall foul of such policies and subsequently get dismissed claim that their right to freedom of speech or right to privacy has been infringed.  The Courts and Tribunals tend to give these arguments short shrift.

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Can an Employer gain Access to an Employee’s Linked In Profiles?

Although the cases about misuse of social media that grab the headlines are usually to do with employees posting inappropriate material on Facebook.  That usually involves reputational issues for the employer.  However, a more thorny problem is that posed by departing employees using Linked In to communicate with the clients of the business they are leaving.  In contact-sensitive businesses, such as recruitment, this is a major issue.

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Not much time passes without an employment case on misuse of Facebook surfacing. Usually it is to do with an employee making unfortunate or downright rude comments about a customer colleague or employer. Usually they get sacked for doing so and an Employment Tribunal then has to rule if the dismissal was fair or not. Occasionally, and to everyone’s amusement, the employee tells the employer they are ill and then post pictures of themselves on Facebook wrestling sharks instead of sitting glumly in bed sucking a thermometer, or nursing a hangover.

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Why Should Bosses Want Employees’ Facebook Details?

According to this article in Newstrack India there is a growing trend in the USA for employers to ask new potential new recruits in job interviews for their Facebook log-in details.   It may well not be illegal to make the request (although it may breach Facebook’s rules) but why on earth would an employer want to access an employee’s private Facebook account? The information revealed could well prove to be a poisoned chalice.

Mate, don't drink it.

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As the wheels fall off time’s winged chariot and Old Father Time is evicted from his nursing home;

And as the Partygoer of Unquenchable Thirst  prepares to meet the Office Party of Bitter Experience, it’s that time of the year again: the annual review.

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Don't be Rude about Apple


A trickle of Employment Tribunal cases are coming through on dismissals associated with inappropriate or derogatory comments on Facebook.  The most recent, being Crisp v Apple Retail Ltd (unreported, as far as I can see) which held that an employee who posted (unspecified) derogatory comments about Apple and its products on a “private” Facebook page outside of his working hours was not unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct.  I would be interested to see the Judgment rather than just the brief summary in People Management Magazine (useful though that is) if anyone has it.

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ACAS recently published a research paper on the use of social media in the workplace, called “Workplaces and Social Networking: The implications for Employment Relations“, as well as some very useful guidelines on how to draft a social media policy.   It’s also about time that ACAS provided some guidance in what is becoming an increasingly difficult area.

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Are you Cyberslacking?



Why aren’t you working?


Cyberslacking is the term given to people who spend their worktime surfing the net, doing their shopping, checking football scores or booking a holiday.  In fact, doing anything on the net that isn’t related to their jobs. Like you reading this now, probably.

Civil servants in Northern Ireland have allegedly been busy shopping, reading football stories and even planning holidays in the sun while they were supposed to be working.

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[This is the follow up piece to my article “Social Media in the Workplace” published on this blog last Saturday and, originally, in The Internet Newsletter for Lawyers/Law 2.0]

In my last article I wrote about the potential threats that face employers from the use by employees of social media and recommended that businesses have a social media policy.

To recap, the main threats to an employer from misuse of social media are;

  1. Reputational damage
  2. Breach of confidentiality
  3. Time wasting
  4. Liability to third parties
  5. Liability to other employees and to prospective employees.

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Social Media in the Workplace

In the Middle East this year we have seen country after country rocked by revolution.  The popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded, Libya remains in the balance and Bahrain and Syria may yet succumb.  What does this have to do with social media for lawyers?  Social media networks are credited with having fanned the flames lit by Mohamed Bouazizi, the fruit and vegetable seller in Tunisia who set fire to himself triggering everything that followed.  The immense power of these networks as tools of communication is still not fully understood by most people and how they are used in the workplace is an issue that needs to be given careful consideration.

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