Social media can be a great tool to promote your business, but when your staff use their Facebook or Twitter accounts to vent about work, it can damage your reputation and brand.
We recently came across an interesting case where one company risked more than their good name. In fact they may have had to pay out thousands in an unfair dismissal claim, were it not for the fact they had a social media and internet usage clause in their employment contract.
This is how a well-known pub chain dealt with an employee who overshared on Facebook.
The member of staff in question (we’ll call her Ms X) worked as a shift manager for a popular pub chain.
One night a couple of customers drunkenly insulted her and threatened her with a walking cane. They were consequently kicked out and barred from the establishment.
But that was not the end of the matter. Later that night Ms X received a number of phone calls at the pub from a woman claiming to be the couple’s daughter, who carried on with the insults and said she would get her sacked.
Instead of getting the police involved, Ms X jumped on Facebook and vented to her 650 friends about what had just happened, commenting that she hoped one of the couple would fall and break her hip.
The Facebook post found it’s way back to the daughter and she made a complaint.
The pub chain had a clear policy on how staff should represent the company on social media, which was spelled out in their contracts of employment.
Ms X had breached this policy by damaging the chain’s reputation, so they dismissed her.
Ms X made a claim of unfair dismissal but the her former employers were able to argue at tribunal that her online reaction had been unacceptable and breached the terms of her contract. They had conducted a full investigation and considered that the decision to dismiss her was justified.
The employment tribunal agreed. Ms X had used social media while at work and used abusive language which risked the company’s reputation.
With the average successful unfair dismissal claim paying out more than £16,500, were it not for having a robust social media clause in the employment contract, the outcome would have been very different.
A large pub-chain could probably have sucked that up – but could your business?
The lesson? Don’t risk your reputation and profitability, ensure your employment contracts cover social media and internet usage.