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Employee Dismissed Fairly For Derogatory Comments Against Employer On Facebook

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In British Waterways Board v Smith [2015], the Employment Appeals Tribunal (“EAT”) considered whether it was fair to dismiss an employee who had made derogatory statements about his employer on Facebook, even though the employer had been made aware of the misconduct 12 months before the dismissal.

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

This case shows that an employer that has failed to respond to an employee’s earlier act of misconduct will not necessarily lose the opportunity to take action at a later date. In this case, the misconduct predated the dismissal by two years and the employer had known about it for a considerable part of that time, yet the EAT did not criticise the employer for relying on it to dismiss the employee.

The employer in this case also deliberately searched for evidence against the employee who had raised grievances. This case confirms the decision in Williams v Leeds United Football Club [2015] where an employer ultimately avoided making a large pay-out to an employee, after the employer had found material on which it based a summary dismissal by means of a “fishing expedition” without censure from the court. In that case, the misconduct preceded the dismissal by five years, but the employer only discovered it shortly before dismissing the employee.

The case of Smith is a reminder to employers of the importance of maintaining an effective social media policy and is also a reminder to employees of the importance of exercising caution when posting online.

For further information please contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

Written by Andrew Egan

August 11th, 2015 at 8:58 pm