A lorry driver was sacked for posting a derogatory comment about his employer on Facebook after he was stopped by police and given a £60 fixed penalty for his company vehicle having no valid MOT.
The driver fumed about the episode on Facebook, criticising his employers, a timber building manufacturers, for not doing their job properly. This post was seen by numerous people including the company’s Business Manager, a daughter of one of the Directors. She thought the post showed a lack of respect for the company and that it would damage the business and asked him to remove the message immediately. This was not done until the following evening.
He was issued with a letter and summarily dismissed on his return to work on the Monday and appealed the decision which was unsuccessful.
An employment tribunal said the driver had every right to be upset when, because of his employers’ shortcomings, he received the fixed penalty notice. The Tribunal also found procedural defects in the dismissal including the fact he did not have a chance to explain his case, the letter was already prepared and the decision made and that his appeal wasn’t handled independently. His comments could not be seen by the public at large and the tribunal considered the company overreacted. They said pre-Facebook, the driver would have “vented his frustration by telling his friends and family of the incident directly or on the telephone,” and this would not have been grounds for instant dismissal
However, the driver was said to have contributed to his sacking and the tribunal reduced his compensation by 20% to £1,160.
Social media can both help and hinder a business, so it is important to ensure you have social media usage in your IT Policy to make staff aware of your company’s expectations. One of the reasons that a Tribunal finds in favour of the employee is the fact an employer has not adhered to their own policies and procedures, so make sure you follow your disciplinary procedures to the letter and always act in a fair and consistent manner.