Back in March, there was uproar about employers demanding that their workers divulge their Facebook login details and concerns that having so much information was breaching the Data Protection Act.
This week, a man has won his case after he claimed that he had been demoted as a result of a post that he made on Facebook. Whilst not wanting to go into too many details because I believe that free speech allows someone to give their point of view about religion or politics to their online friends, Adrian Smith claimed that he had been demoted as a result of making a comment on his Facebook profile next to a BBC report about gay marriage.
Whatever the rights or wrongs ethically and morally, it was his own personal opinion and it was not visible to the general public. The comments were posted outside work time, but his employers argued that he broke their code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.
High Court judge Mr Justice Briggs said: “Mr Smith was taken to task for doing nothing wrong, suspended and subjected to a disciplinary procedure which wrongly found him guilty of gross misconduct, and then demoted to a non-managerial post with an eventual 40% reduction in salary.
“The breach of contract which the Trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory.”
His employers replied that they accepted the court’s verdict and had been defending their social media policy.
Whilst many employers believe that it is important to have a social media policy, it is also vital that this does not impinge upon individual’s civil liberties. Providing their comments are not made in the name of their employers or done during time for which they are being paid, surely it is not any of their concern.
If you have been admonished at work for a social media infringement, it would be interesting to hear from you.