‘Facebook’ dismissal was fair for an employee who had posted vulgar comments about a female colleague
In the recently decided case of Teggart v TeleTech UK Limited NIIT 00704/11 the Northern Ireland industrial tribunal held that an employee who posted vulgar comments about a colleague on his Facebook page was fairly dismissed.
Mr Teggart (whilst at home) posted an obscene comment about the promiscuity of a female colleague on his Facebook page. The comment mentioned his employer and was read by his Facebook friends, which included some work colleagues.
The Facebook comments were brought to the attention of the company by a person who claimed to be a member of the public, but who was never subsequently interviewed.
A disciplinary was arranged to discuss Mr Teggart's alleged gross misconduct relating to harassment of a fellow employee and bringing the company into disrepute by using its name in connection with his comments. Mr Teggart was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct and he appealed against his dismissal. The decision to dismiss Mr Teggart was upheld and he then presented a claim to a Tribunal complaining of unfair dismissal.
The Tribunal held that even though the comments had not brought the company’s reputation into serious disrepute the harassment of a female colleague was sufficiently serious on its own to justify the dismissal of the employee for gross misconduct.
This decision highlights the fact that inappropriate comments made using social media in the employee’s own time and on the employee’s own equipment are still capable of justifying dismissal for gross misconduct.
If you would like any further information on this topic, or other employment law topics, please contact Christina Merrington.