Dismissal for offensive comments on social media/texts/emails is potentially fair, especially taking into account the public nature of social platforms.
Dismissal can be within the “range of reasonable responses.” However, relevant matters to bear in mind could be:
- The content of any social media policy issued to employees.
- The nature of the alleged comments.
- Whether the employee has received any previous warnings for similar misconduct.
- Whether there is any actual or potential damage to customer/client/staff relationships.
Drawing a line between work and personal life can be difficult for employers, but they can have a legitimate concern reading postings that contain offensive, vulgar, insulting language and abusive and/or sexist remarks.
Clearly individual circumstances have to be taken into account in order to assess if formal disciplinary action is appropriate.
In order to avoid social media problems, the starting point for employers is to put a clear policy in place and to bring this policy to the attention of all employees.
The key message should be that social media activity is not private and that online activity can be harmful to the company and can be regarded as potentially gross misconduct.
Expressing sexist views, especially if they cause offence to colleagues or customers, can lead to formal disciplinary action.
No-one is above the law, even the “Special One” Jose Mourinho is reportedly being investigated regarding alleged abusive or sexist language towards team doctor Eva Carneiro recently.
In such a difficult area it is always advisable to seek professional advice, especially as quite often it will be one person’s word against another with no witnesses.
If any of the issues raised in this article affect your business, please give us a call to discuss your options. We are happy to advise and find a solution that works for you and your business: 0800 912 7152