Social media at work


We have already heard of stories, in which employers have fired an employee, because of stating something intolerant on a Facebook page or something similar. And sometimes it’s a little hard to understand, what you, as an employee, are allowed to do with social media or what employers maybe are not allowed to do. I would like (to at least try) to bring some light into the darkness.

Getting demoted or fired

The case of Smith v Trafford Housing Trust is a good example to explain what’s allowed and what is not.

Adrian Smith, a Christian employee was demoted and his pay reduced, because he has written comments on Facebook opposing gay marriage. The employer argued, that this would “breach their code of conduct and equal opportunities policy” and that they were afraid that the comments would bring their Trust into disrepute.

The court stated, Mr. Smith’s comments would not constitute misconduct, because he had used his Facebook page privately to talk about several topics. So his comments couldn’t be mistaken for the views of his employer.

This case upholds an employee’s right to privacy and freedom of expression and, importantly, confirms that Facebook is essentially a social and personal medium unless the context suggests otherwise.

Checking your Facebook account

Carl Kanowsky describes in a blog post about social media an example of an employer, called Mary, and a man, who had a job interview, called George.

After George’s interview Mary calls his past employers, to get to know more of him. Finally she checks his Facebook page, because she knows, she is allowed to do so. There was nothing spectacular on his page. So she decided to hire George.

She also knows, that she would have not been allowed to ask George for his password during the job interview. But there is a weird fact: she would be allowed to ask her employees for all their passwords, if she gave them iPads or cell phones etc. and they would use it for Facebook and other social media.

Maybe this will help you a little in the future. In any case you should divide between private and professional use of social media. This way nobody should be able to demote or fire you because of any comments you have made, which are not connected to work.