Friday, November 16, 2012

Whose views are they anyway?

Have a look at your various social media accounts – do any of them contain the name of the company you work for? Do you post a mixture of work and personal material? If so the decision of the High Court released on the 16th November is something you need to be aware of.

A bit of background; an employee, who identified his employer on his Facebook page, posted some comments following a news story about gay marriage. The comments reflected the employee’s strongly held religious convictions. Some co-workers complained and the employer determined the posts amounted to gross misconduct and imposed strong sanctions.

The English High Court considered the case and finally decided that the employer had been wrong to class the employee’s personal facebook pages as representing the views of the organisation. On this basis the action taken over the “gross misconduct” was unfounded and the employer was in breach of contract.

You might like to think that this decision was on the basis of the principles of freedom of expression, the human rights act or some equivalent legislation – you would be mistaken. What it came down to was the balance of the posts that could be seen to be related to work and those that were purely personal.

In other words, if you freely mix posts about your work and social life, you could be opening up your social media account to considerably stronger scrutiny that you imagined. There has been a rash of cases recently that demonstrate how the “written” character of social media transforms the responsibility you bear for firing your views into the ether.

So what should we do – either you need to keep your work and personal profiles separate, or recognise that anything you say could be seen in a bad light by your employer, other players in your industry or regulatory bodies. It’s worth spending a few minutes thought on the matter. Personally, I’ve just taken any reference to work off my Facebook account!


  1. I tend to avoid references to religion or politics on FB and Twitter - as I have a number of colleagues, partners, customers on both. It's a tricky balancing act though, and I am sure there's more legal wranglings set up in the pipeline...

  2. An interesting legal connection with this subject is the number and make-up of your 'followers' - this can make a big difference as to your status as a 'publisher'. Recent events relating tweets and re-tweets of libellous content have made the legal system sit-up and take notice of seemingly small individual transgressions taking place on a gigantic scale ... see