19th June 2015

How Are You Voting Today? Zayn or Louis?

Louis Zayn

#TeamLouis or #TeamZayn?

Whilst most eyes will be on the General Election today, some may also be on the twitter spat which has broken out between One Direction band member, Louis Tomlinson, and his former band mate, Zayn Malik.  A very public war of online words has commenced on twitter between the two ex-band mates.  Opinion is very clearly divided as to which musician is in the wrong.

Social media feuds between employees

As an employment lawyer, I am being asked more and more frequently to give advice to employers as to when (and how) to intervene when such social media issues occur between employees.  Employment lawyers are now having to grapple with issues such as “cyber bullying” and “online social exclusion” on a sometimes weekly basis.

Is the conduct within the course of employment? 

Before making a decision about whether to intervene in such online spats between employees, an employer should consider whether or not the conduct falls “within the course of employment”.  Historically employment tribunals have interpreted this definition very widely and frequently in favour of the employee.  However tribunals are also keen to emphasise that each case will be fact specific.  Generally an employer will only be liable for acts of its employees which are authorised by it.  Therefore if an employer makes clear to employees what use of social media is prohibited, this would be a potentially good defence to any claim on the basis that such conduct took place between employees outwith the course of employment.  On this basis, employers should have a clear social media policy in place and provide regular training to its employees as to unacceptable use of such social media.

What steps should be taken by the employer if social media misconduct falls within the course of employment? 

  • Where possible, employers should encourage employees to make use of the formal grievance procedure. This will allow the employer to create and maintain a paper trail as to the extent of the alleged misconduct.  This should also allow the employer to note the effect of the misconduct on the disgruntled employee.  This information might also prove useful at any future tribunal hearing.
  • Employers should ensure that any bullying and disciplinary policies extend to include the use of social media. This might include the use of offensive or intimidating language directed at another employee on social media.
  • Lastly employers should also take action against employees who commit acts of misconduct on social media. In order to do so, the employer will require to rely upon a robust social media policy.

Ultimately whether you are #TeamLouis or #TeamZayn, it seems clear that this recent episode of #KeyboardCourage looks set to prolong the #ZaynPain for another few weeks …

Simon Allison
Partner & Head of Employment Law
@EmpLawyerSimon
www.blackadders.co.uk

 

 

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

Blackadders takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the content of this site is accurate and up to date. The site is not, however, intended as a substitute for seeking legal or other professional advice but rather as an informative guide to the services provided by Blackadders and topical legal developments. Site visitors should always seek advice tailored to their specific situation. Consequently, Blackadders accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by anyone acting or failing to act on the basis of information contained on this site. Downloading of material contained on this site is at the user’s own risk and all necessary virus checks must first be carried out by the user. Blackadders is not responsible for the material found on any web sites linked to this one and links to this site may only be made with Blackadders prior consent.

Copyright

Blackadders owns the copyright in this blog and all material contained on it. The material on this site may be downloaded for personal use only and must not be altered. Otherwise, Blackadders’ written consent is required before any material on this site is reproduced, copied or transmitted in any way.

Privacy Statement

Information passed to us via this site is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to third parties except if authorised by you or required by law.

© Blackadders LLP 2011

Members of the Law Society of Scotland. Authorised to conduct Investment Business under the Financial Services & Markets Act 2000 by the Financial Services Authority.

Blackadders Solicitors is a trading name of Blackadders LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in Scotland No SO301600 whose registered office is 30 & 34 Reform Street, Dundee, DD1 1RJ. Reference to a ‘partner’ is to a member of Blackadders LLP.

Back to News & Legal updates