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Social media misconduct

Although the EAT has not yet provided guidance on dealing with social media-related conduct issues, there are some elements of a recent decision that employers can learn from, writes Kevin Poulter

29 September 2015

An employee dismissed for posting ‘banter’ on Facebook several years before initially succeeded in his claim for unfair dismissal, but that decision has now been overturned. As social media becomes more a part of our everyday lives, what lessons can employers learn from the mistakes of others?

In The British Waterways Board v Smith [2015] UKEAT/0004/15, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) considered how first-tier tribunals should approach social media misconduct cases, but has left us short of any clear guidance. 

The facts

David Smith was employed as a waterways operative by Scottish Canals and had been in employment since April 2005. He was dismissed on 4 June 2013, after a number of comments he posted on Facebook (as far back as 2011) were investigated by his employer as part of a largely unrelated grievance mediation process. When Smith arrived at the mediation meeting, he was suspended and later summarily dismissed for gross misconduct. 

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