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Have you ever experienced that awkward moment when you get a friends request from a relative stranger? Worse still, have you ever experienced that awkward moment when you get a friends request from your boss? It’s always going to be a dilemma. Do you or don’t you? Will you allow your boss to know the secrets which are contained on your timeline? Or will you reject it and run the risk of that embarrassing conversation when your boss mentions his or her pending friends request. And what are your concerns anyway?
Can my boss discipline me for posting a status update during working hours?
Potentially, yes. However the answer to this question depends entirely on the content and precise wording of your employment contract or staff handbook. Does your employer permit “reasonable use” of social media during working hours? Or does your employer expressly prohibit use of social media during working hours? Either way, if you are breaching the terms of your social media policy and your boss is a Facebook friend, it is entirely reasonable for the boss to take action against you in this respect.
Can my boss use information from my Facebook profile to discipline me?
Again, potentially yes. Over the past few years, employment tribunals have permitted employers to use information which has been gleaned from social media to dismiss employees. In one recent case, an employee was dismissed for posting “OMG I hate my job! My boss is always making me do s*** stuff just to p*** me off”, forgetting that she was already Facebook friends with him. He replied to the post stating, “that ‘s*** stuff’ is your job. You seem to have forgotten that you have two weeks’ left on your six month trial period. Don’t bother coming in tomorrow. I’ll pop your P45 in the post.” So again, using information from Facebook is entirely possible.
Is it ever unfair for my boss to rely on this type of evidence at an employment tribunal?
No, not really. If you are friends with your boss on Facebook, any of your status updates will be fair game. Recent tribunal decisions have held that even covert recordings which are “very distasteful” and “discreditable” will not alone render them inadmissible. More and more frequently employees are recording formal meetings without the employer’s consent and then seeking to rely on this covert recording at any future tribunal hearing. So, again it would be entirely reasonable for your boss to rely on your social media content at a future employment tribunal.
So should I accept a Facebook friends request from my boss?
One of the first things you learn when you begin your professional career is that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your colleagues. And if you’re lucky, some of these colleagues could become your friends. Bonding with your trusted colleagues is a no-brainer however what about a friendship with your boss? Having a positive, constructive and open relationship with your boss is always a good thing and, if you can cross that line into friendship (even if it is only Facebook friendship), then you are one of the lucky few!
P.S. And if you don’t want your boss to see that photo of you, tagged on Saturday night, sitting in a shopping trolley on Benvie Road with a can of lager in one hand and a kebab in another, you probably shouldn’t be posting it anyway.
Partner – Head of Employment Law