Historic derogatory comments on Facebook entitled employer to dismiss

A recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal[1] has upheld an employer’s decision to dismiss an employee who had historically made derogatory comments about his employer on Facebook. The derogatory comments had been posted two years before the employee was dismissed. The employer had been aware of the comments for at least six months of that period.

The case is helpful for employers as it shows that an employer who has failed to respond promptly to an act of misconduct does not necessarily miss the opportunity to take disciplinary action if they wish to discipline the employee later. The case is also helpful because the employer in this case actively sought evidence against the employee.

Both points follow a similar theme in Williams v Leeds United Football Club [2015] where an employer searched for misconduct to avoid paying a hefty redundancy payment. In the Williams case the misconduct had arisen five years beforehand.

As a general rule, all employers should have a social media policy in place and communicate it to staff.

[1] The British Waterways Board v Smith [2015] UKEAT/0004/15


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