Employment facebook.

John was the manager of a logistics company on the North Shore. His direct report was Hillary, the owner and employer of the business. John loved his job when work was busy, but in slow patches he found it really hard to get motivated. He started going on Facebook during the slow periods.

Hillary knew John was using Facebook. She had seen the Facebook page open on John’s computer screen and Emma, Hillary’s personal assistant, had told Hillary of John’s Facebook use (Emma and John were friends on Facebook).

One day Emma gave Hillary a printout from John’s Facebook page. The printout showed John ranting about Hillary’s business – in particular about the low turnover, uncompetitive pricing and lack of new business. Hillary was furious!

How dare John say such things – and on a ‘public’ forum like Facebook! Hillary’s initial reaction was to fire John on the spot however she remembered her lawyer talking about personal grievances for unjustified dismissals. Hillary rang her employment lawyer for advice.

The lawyer’s first question was whether or not Hillary had an employment agreement in place for John (there is a penalty of up to $20,000 for not having a written employment agreement). Hillary had employment agreements in place for all her staff however there were no provisions in the agreement or in any company policy which set out the company’s requirements regarding social media. The lawyer strongly recommended that a policy be put in place to ensure all staff were aware of the company’s social media requirements. The policy would also make it easier in the future for Hillary to address any breaches of the policy. Hillary agreed, but she still wants to know what can be done about John.

The lawyer said the starting point is for Hillary to investigate John’s alleged comments. The investigation must be legally procedurally fair, as only after a thorough investigation would Hillary be in a position to make decisions about John’s employment. Hillary kept her lawyer updated throughout the investigation and, at the conclusion of the investigation, she met with her lawyer to decide on a course of action Hillary felt was fair and justified.

In order to prevent disputes with employees around social media use at work and what employees can disclose about the business on social media sites, please make sure you have a comprehensive social media policy in place.

 

For more information on social media policies, serious misconduct, dismissing employees or personal grievances, please contact Bronwen Newcombe on 09 915 6140 or bronwen@davenportslawco.nz.

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