Employment Law: Facebook

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 - Blog, Employment Law, Facebook

Employment Law: Facebook

The modern trend of social media never fails to surprise or disappointment me. The latest shows that home insurers are now taking your Facebook profile into account when assessing your home insurance risk.

But it was with regards HR and employment issues that I wrote Social Media Checklist, and the latest news story to emerge which is, on reading the media reports, highly illegal when considered against UK employment law: being sacked on Facebook.

Employment Law: sacked on Facebook

Chelsea Taylor, a 16 year old school girl from Manchester, was sacked from her £3.50/hr Saturday job by Elaine, the manager of Cookies (also known as the Lancashire Tearooms) by placing a Facebook entry on Chelsea’s page.

Chelsea had gone out on a manager instructed errand to get some staff biscuits, and returned to the shop £10 short of the right amount of change. She sought guidance from her manager who said it was all OK, and then got the public note on her Facebook which read:

hiya Chelsea its Elaine from work. Sorry to send u a message like this but bin tryin to ring u but gettin no joy. I had to tell the owner bout  u losin that tenner coz obviously the till was down at the end of day. she wasn’t very pleased at all and despite me trying to persuade her otherwise she said I have to let u go. I’m really sorry.

Is this legal? Putting aside the awful text talk language, I conclude not, and here’s why.

Employment Law: reasons for dismissal/being sacked

For first point legal advice, I always send employers and employees to the very useful Direct.gov.uk, the UK Governments portal of all information.
There, its dismissal page clearly states that if your employer has dismissed you because of your conduct, it usually means you have broken one or more of the terms of your employment, including:

  • continually missing work
  • poor discipline
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • theft or dishonesty

Your employer should follow a fair disciplinary procedure before dismissing you for misconduct.So I conclude from the media reports, that Chelsea was dismissed through reasons of theft or dishonesty, ie: they suspect she took the £10 for buying staff biscuits.

Employment law: Disciplinary Action

The companies standard disciplinary action should be:

  • Legal: ie compliant with UK Law
  • Written down: other wise, standard UK law procedure applies

A legal disciplinary procedure should address the following steps:

  • Notice from the employer of pending action, normally in the form of a letter
  • A meeting with the employer
  • Dismissal via written notice
  • Appeal option

In this case we have:

  • No reason for procedure
  • A notice
  • No meeting
  • No option or note of appeal

In conclusion, I think this looks constructive, particularly when Chelsea sought guidance from her manager who said it was all OK, and then dismissal. I am sure after such wide media coverage, Chelsea is now over run with HR lawyers willing to sue Cookies on her behalf, and who on the media evidence stand a large chance of winning.

Employees and Job Seekers need to be careful over Facebook, and it is why I wrote Social Media Checklist. But employers need to be careful how they use it also.

Good Luck!


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2 Responses to “Employment Law: Facebook”

  1. Girolamo Says:

    I found this blog while searching google. Impressive, since Google tends to display relatively old results but this one is very recent! Very informative, especially since this is not a subject a lot of people are able to write about. Take care…

  2. Ummez Ida Says:

    Hi from Greece! I have found your website on AOL. Useful content! Ummez Ida

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