Misconduct at work could lead to disciplinary action and, if the conduct is sufficiently serious, result in your dismissal. It may also be fair for your employer to dismiss you for conduct outside of the workplace. The key issue is whether the conduct in question relates to the employment relationship.
Cases involving social media, violence, sexual conduct or dishonesty away from the workplace are the most likely to affect the employment relationship, either because of the particular nature of your work or because of general considerations about damage to your employer’s reputation.
The suggestion that your conduct may damage your employer’s reputation, even if it takes place outside of work, is especially relevant when it comes to social media. This might include information that you post on your Facebook account, tweets on your Twitter feeds, videos on YouTube or use of your own email accounts on a personal computer or other device in your own time.
The decisions in cases involving employees’ use of social media outside work indicate that:
- The question of whether your use of social media is work-related will depend on the facts of the case.
- Your employer should not take a disproportionate view of the damage or potential damage to their reputation, just because material that does not put them in the best light comes into the public arena.
- The information given to you about corporate image and reputation as well as about your employer’s expectations as regards use of social media are also relevant. Your employer is likely to have a specific social media policy and may have made it clear that protecting its image is a core value.
If you are dismissed for making derogatory comments about your employer on social media, your dismissal may be unfair if your comments are relatively minor and there is nothing to suggest your employer’s reputation has been harmed as a result. Although risk of harm to your employer’s reputation will be evident from the content of posts in most cases, your employer will need to make efforts to assess the potential damage where this is less clear. Your employer should also take into account any mitigating facts such as if you have an otherwise good employment record.
If you make derogatory comments about a colleague this may be sufficiently serious to justify your dismissal, even if the comments do not bring your employer’s reputation into disrepute. Harassment of an employee is likely to be in breach of your employer’s policies.
Dismissal may be fair even if your comments are personal and non-work related, for example if those comments are obscene or offensive and have been seen by or shared with a large number of people. Consider who might see or hear your actions or comments and how they might be viewed by your employer.
If your conduct is regarded as misconduct rather than gross misconduct (so something less serious, falling short of gross misconduct), this will still justify disciplinary action but may result in a warning, rather than dismissal.
If you are dismissed, but an Employment Tribunal finds that your dismissal was unfair, you may be entitled to compensation. Note however, that the Tribunal may reduce your compensation if it finds that your actions contributed to your dismissal.
Can we help you?
If you are facing disciplinary action because of conduct outside of work or have been dismissed and would like specific advice, please contact one of our specialist employment law solicitors at LincsLaw on 01522 440512 or visit our website at www.lincslaw.co.uk for more details on how we can help you.
Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
LincsLaw Employment Solicitors