Facebook – Beware of the #Selfie

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The employee’s Facebook profile picture had been copied and mis-used by other members of staff for distribution on an inappropriate website.

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Recent report from one of our clients suggested that they had received a complaint from an employee who felt they were being bullied in the workplace, and wished for the employer to deal with the issue.

The nature of complaint was as follows: The employee’s Facebook profile picture or ‘selfies’ had been copied and mis-used by other members of staff for distribution on an inappropriate website.  Also to accompany the picture was the employees’ private phone number.  

The offended employee turned to the employer to ask them to discipline the other members of staff for the misuse of his image.   They felt they were being bullied in the workplace by their fellow colleague’s actions.  However in this instance the employer was powerless to action anything other than disapproval for the following reasons:

  1. The offended employee posted the picture on a public forum for all and sundry to see
  2. The fellow colleagues in question were friends with the employee but offended the employee on Facebook independently of the company.  As such this image was distributed to them whether they wished to see it or not.  The employees colleagues did not hack into his Facebook account to have sight of the image as such it is public property
  3. Distribution of the image was not undertaken during company time nor on the company equipment and as such it is not the employer’s responsibility to regulate the actions of their staff outside of the workplace

Whilst the employer does not condone the action of their staff they are powerless to take any further action under any company disciplinary policy.  Had the picture been distributed around the workplace, for ‘banter’ in the workplace or if it that had been used to distributed on the internet using company equipment then it would be the employer’s responsibility to deal with the employees in question.

In this instance the employer was advised to merely discuss the issue with all the members of staff highlighting that they did not feel that this was an appropriate action to take concerning a fellow colleague as it had caused them a severe distress.  There is, however, nothing that the employer can do at this stage can do at this stage.

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