A private conversation in a public house
27 April 2011
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc. They are the public meeting places of the 21st century. Such virtual communities are spaces where a whole generation has come together to express themselves and form networks like never before. However, as the case of Preece v JD Wetherspoons plc (2011) highlights, what seems to a space for purely personal expression can easily become part of the public sphere, when social discourse is conducted in the open arena of cyberspace.
In this case, the dismissal of a pub manager for gross misconduct, following inappropriate comments she made on Facebook about some customers who had verbally abused her, was upheld by the employment tribunal. The conversation on Facebook had taken place whilst Ms Preece was at work and was in breach of the company`s e-mail and internet policy. Ms Preece`s privacy settings meant that a wide audience was able to view her Facebook page, including the customers in question, risking the reputation of her employer.
This case highlights the importance of having in place a policy regarding the use of social media by staff.
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