We all do not laugh at the same things and what one person finds funny another one may find offensive.
With mobile phones always to hand being caught on camera in an embarrassing situation is always a risk.
In recent years the Castle Associates employee support centre has had to deal with a growing number of calls from employees who have fallen foul of an employer’s social media policy.
Such a policy will usually make clear what an employer considers to be unacceptable use of social media platforms. Breaching such a policy can trigger a disciplinary investigation.
When one of office worker Zack’s colleagues was filmed falling over during a night out after having had too much to drink, the clip was shared around work.
A couple of weeks later a video was shared with Zack on social media. It featured the girlfriend of a colleague being mocked in a video clip that was filmed at a distance and without her knowledge.
The person filming the video was commentating on the footage and making fun of the colour of the female’s tan and what she was wearing.
Zack thought the clip was funny and he showed it to a couple of workmates. Crucially he did not share the clip with anyone else, because he did not think it was appropriate to do so.
Zack’s colleague, who was the woman’s boyfriend, later got to hear about the clip. He confronted Zack and the pair got involved in a heated row, and had to be told to calm down.
A couple days later Zack was accused by his bosses of bullying and breaching the company’s social media policy. He admitted viewing and showing colleagues the video which he thought was funny, but denied circulating it.
He was told by his manager that a copy of the clip was being shared around work. His workmate now felt bullied and had raised a grievance before going off work ill.
Zack denied that he was responsible for sharing the video clip. He was informed that he would be suspended from work and the matter taken further.
He contacted our support centre for help. Zack faced allegations of bullying based on a grievance raised by his colleague and a breach of the company social media policy,
The evidence for disciplinary hearing included three witness statements confirming Zack showed them the video, a statement from the employee who was the boyfriend of the woman in the clip and the social media and disciplinary policies.
Prior to the hearing our representative requested a copy of the company grievance policy and a copy of the written grievance made against Zack. The company confirmed the grievance was not made in writing.
At the hearing our representative referred to the grievance policy, which stated a formal grievance must be in writing. He highlighted that if a grievance had been raised the company did not follow its own policy or the ACAS Code of Practice in investigating it and establishing the facts.
Our representative argued Zack did not breach the social media policy as his actions cannot reasonably be considered to ‘adversely affect the company’. He told the hearing there was also no evidence that he circulated the clip, but there was a culture whereby colleagues showed and shared clips considered funny.
He explained Zack regretted his actions, had taken appropriate learning from what happened, was willing to work with the company to address any concerns as a result of the case and was happy to speak with his colleague, apologise and take part in mediation if it would help.
The company accepted the arguments and cleared Zack of any wrongdoing. It later updated its social media policy as a direct result of the case.
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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611