Employee Dismissal Due to Facebook Comment Found to be Fair

Recent events in the UK have brought to light how social media and the workplace often meet. One worker at the British Waterways Board (BWB) discovered firsthand that the BWB means business when it comes to their social media policy as it applies to their employees. The employee became disgruntled and made it well known on his private Facebook page, and found himself without a job after confessing to drinking alcohol while on the job.

The employee was disgruntled with work conditions and job requirements and filed several complaints with the company in a short amount of time. While looking into the complaints and reviewing the employee’s conduct, supervisors noticed that the employee was talking poorly of the BWB on social media website Facebook. Eventually the supervisors found an update from the employee in which the employee admitted to consuming alcohol during work hours. This was grounds for termination and the employee was let go due to misconduct.

There are some who feel that BWB may have gone too far with enforcing disciplinary action for something an employee did while off the clock. Unfortunately for the employee, presenting yourself to the public while representing the company in a positive light is often a condition of employment. The BWB has a clear written social media policy which forbids “any action on the Internet which might embarrass or discredit the BWB (including defamation of third parties for example, by posting comments on bulletin boards or chat rooms).” While fully aware of the policy set in place, and the situation with the complaints lodged the employee chose to use his Facebook bulletin board as an outlet for his frustration.

It is commonly thought that a someone’s Facebook page is private and the information shared on it belongs only to the person who posted it. However when a person displays comments others will see or read they are no longer private but public. Using Facebook to bash the BWB because of his situation could affect the company’s profit, as any negative attention could.

This is why it is important for all workers to understand that there are always repercussions for their actions and any statements they make outside of work while representing their company could eventually lead to disciplinary action or unemployment. Likewise, it is important for businesses that choose to take a look at employees who discredit them online should openly state and share a policy which explains how online rants can or would affect the employment relationship.

Companies as well as employees should discuss these policies openly before they enter into an agreement. Not doing so only leads to confusion and headaches for all parties involved, not to mention the potential loss of profit, image, or employment. Policies are in place to ensure the future safety of the company and the people who work for them. Everyone should do their part to stay informed about the details and guidelines of each company and respect policies and procedures when it comes to portraying a positive image.

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