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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 45315
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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I have posted two statements on Facebook regarding an

Customer Question

I have posted two statements on Facebook regarding an arguement I have about the way my office is run. I have been suspended for bringing the company into disrepute. Is this correct please ?
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hello how long have you worked there for?

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
21 years
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

What are your specific concerns about this?

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I'm suspended awaiting a disciplinary hearing. I expect to be sacked.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Would it help to know what the two statements were ? One was that I expected to retire earlier than I expected. Another was My boss has called me the most annoying man he's ever worked with.
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Woman. Sorry. The most annoying woman he's ever worked with.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Being placed on suspension is not an automatic assumption of guilt and does not amount to disciplinary action. It is there to be used as a precautionary measure whilst an employer investigates any allegations against the employee. Reasons for suspending could be in the case of gross misconduct, breakdown of relationship, risk to an employer's property, their clients or other employees, to preserve evidence or ensure it is not tampered with, avoid potential witnesses being pressured or intimidated, etc.

During the period of suspension the employer should conduct a reasonable investigation into the allegations against the employee. If the investigation gathers enough evidence to justify the taking disciplinary action that could be the next step. In that case the employee has the right to be informed in advance of the allegations against them and be given the opportunity to prepare for the hearing.

On the other hand, if the investigation does not find enough evidence to justify a disciplinary, the employer should terminate the suspension immediately and allow the employee to return to work as normal.

In terms of the grounds for disciplinary, making derogatory comments about the company or its employees can be a disciplinary offence and misconduct. Whether it results in dismissal is another matter and I can discuss legal factors taken into account in such situations.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the specific factors taken into account in such circumstances which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 45315
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
Ben Jones and 3 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Please can we continue the discussion.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Whether or not an employer can take disciplinary action or even dismiss an employee as a result of their activity on social media is a tricky issue. A balance must be struck between an employee's right to private life and the employer's right to not only protect its business and reputation but also its employees.

Employers should only take formal action against an employee's use of social networking websites where there are valid concerns about this having a detrimental effect on the business, including any adverse effect on other employees. Common examples can include:
• Comments that can amount to bullying or harassment of other employees
• Complaints about the employer that can bring the business into disrepute or affect its reputation
• Serious breach of commercial confidentiality.

It is also important to consider the potential readership of these comments, for example how public they were made. If the settings were private and only a limited number of people not related to the business could read them, then the seriousness of the offence may not be great. Similarly, if there was no way of identifying the employer from the comments or from your personal information, it would be difficult for the employer to argue there was damage done to its reputation.

Some useful pointers in deciding the fairness of disciplinary action taken by an employer include:
• The nature of the comments and how offensive they are
• Whether the comments are made on a purely personal social media account
• Whether privacy restrictions are in use so that only friends can see it
• Whether there is anything on the employee’s profile or in any of the comments to link them to the employer
• Whether the comments say anything derogatory about the employer or its customers and employees
• Whether the comments are posted in an employee’s own time or in work time
• Whether the employee uses his own equipment or the employer’s
• Whether the disciplinary rules make it clear what sort of misuse of social media gives grounds for disciplinary action.

If the comments concerned another member of staff and that person saw them or another employee took offence, disciplinary action can be justified although the punishment would need to be determined in line with established employment law principles. These would include examining the nature of the comments and how serious they were (e.g. racist, sexist or other seriously offensive comments could justify dismissal), the employee’s disciplinary record and length of service (the longer one has worked there and if their disciplinary record is clean, the more an employer should think about issuing a warning rather than dismissing).

In summary, it is entirely possible for disciplinary action to be taken in the circumstances but the outcome needs to be carefully considered taking into account the nature of the comments, the context in which they were made and how they have affected the business and/or other employees.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you. Many things to think about here. I shall approach my disciplinary hearing with a little more understanding of what can and can't be done.
Do you think my comments give them proper reason to dismiss me ?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hi sorry I was called into some meetings earlier. With 21 years service and the nature of the comments you have made, I would very much think it is unlikely that this would amount to gross misconduct and be a sackable offence Of course it does not mean they cannot dismiss you but if they do then you will be able to challenge it as an unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you very much for your help.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

You are most welcome, get back to me by asking for me by name if you need further assistance, depending o how things pan out. Good luck

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thank you again.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

No problem

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