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Employers need to consider who else can see an employee's Twitter/Facebook account.

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The resignation last month of Paris Brown following racist and homophobic tweets posted on her profile raises questions for Employers as to what can be defended by employees in regards to their private social media accounts.

Employers need to consider who else can see an employee’s Twitter/Facebook account, such as customers, suppliers, competitors and other members of your staff and how this could negatively impact on your business. As previously reported, knee jerk responses are never seen to be favourable.

Whilst the tweets to her seemed to be harmless comments and observations/opinions, they highlighted her personal stance on a number of issues, including drugs, homosexuality, and immigration. It can be said that as she was in a position of such seniority she is under additional scrutiny, however if your staff place their personal views on a social media site whilst stating that you are their employer it could be detrimental to your business. The question will be what actual detriment has it caused.

In a recent case of an employee of a local housing trust posted on Facebook his opinions on Gay marriage. The Housing Trust issued a disciplinary for causing damage to reputation, which the Employee appealed. The case reached the High Court who deemed that there had been no breach of contract by the Employee as there was no ‘real risk’ of reputational damage.

This case highlights the risk that still surrounds disciplinary action against social media postings. Employers should consider;

  • Are the posts so offensive/controversial to cause offence to the public reader? Or is it just that you personally find them offensive.
  • Are the posts in any way connected to your business?
  • What is the potential readership of the post?
  • Have you received any complaints from members of the public about the post?
  • Have your staff been briefed on what is and is not acceptable in these situations. What social media policy do you have in place?
  • Does the employee also have access to a business social media account? If so have they been briefed as to what is and is not acceptable usage?

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