Social networking – protect your business from legal minefield, says expert
While the rapid rise in the use of social media has
given companies a fantastic platform to promote their products and
services, it has also presented employers with a legal minefield.
Erica Dennett, employment solicitor at Kings Hill-based Vertex Law,
helps you navigate away from the dangers.
Social media can have many great benefits for businesses
when used in a positive manner.
Unfortunately, unless properly managed, there is also an
inherent legal risk to employers whose employees use social
networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Members of staff can easily forget how their comments may
reflect on their workplace and fellow colleagues and these comments
can result in bullying and harassment cases being brought against a
A recent employment tribunal case found employers can be
held liable for harassment by their employees via social networking
In this particular case, a store manager had his mobile phone
temporarily taken by two members of his staff who then used the
device to post a status update on his Facebook page saying "Finally
came out the closet. I am gay and proud".
The tribunal found the manager had been harassed on the grounds
of sexual orientation and that the company was liable for the entry
on his phone as it was posted in the course of employment; the
employees' actions took place at work during working hours and
involved dealings between staff and their manager.
In order for an employer to be able to defend these types of
harassment cases, they will need to show that all reasonable steps
have been taken to prevent their employees from carrying out any
We suggest that employers ensure they have an IT policy that
includes the use of social networking sites and clearly
communicates their expectations in relation to social
In particular, where disciplinary action/dismissal may result,
businesses should look to educate employees by making them aware of
the impact that their actions could have.
It is worth taking into account that the new generation making
their way into the workplace will be regular users of social media
and so it will be particularly important to make sure that
businesses take steps to protect against harassment claims by
setting guidelines for their staff.
More information about Vertex Law at www.vertexlaw.co.uk.