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Employment Law Help with the Use of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are only some of the social networking sites that link millions of people across the world every day and have become a key tool for people to connect, network and communicate with each other. As technology develops, the use of social media has become integral to the way we live our lives and it has impacted the way we interact.

Many organisations use social media to advertise, promote and market their business and services, or to attract new candidates to vacancies. However the impact social media has had on organisations has not always been a positive one and an employee’s use of sites such as these could expose employers to serious legal liabilities.

Debate in this area is significant and so much more so due to a recent case for constructive dismissal that reached Employment Tribunal. A HR professional has been disciplined for information he posted on his CV about his employer which was uploaded to his LinkedIn profile. The company was also allegedly unhappy that the HR professional in question had ticked a box indicating that he was interested in ‘career opportunities’. This was deemed to be an inappropriate use of social media and following disciplinary action, the employee resigned and has subsequently claimed constructive dismissal.

Although the case was adjourned until May, opinion on the subject rages. Many believe that keeping abreast of opportunities broadens knowledge of the market and promoting the firms initiatives to reduce turnover shares best practice and puts the firm in a positive light. Others are considering what the boundaries are in terms of commercial confidentiality and whether the fact that LinkedIn is essentially a business and careers networking site impacted on the decision to take disciplinary action.

The case may never reconvene as it could be settled before May, however the general opinion is that although the firm were heavy handed, it may be an uphill battle to prove constructive dismissal in these circumstances. Nevertheless, it is also considered that uploading information on LinkedIn from a published annual report is not serious misconduct and any organisation treating it so should tread carefully.

Organisations should formulate social media policies in order to protect themselves and ensure employees are aware of what is considered to be acceptable and what is unacceptable. Although the concept of online networking is no different to doing so face to face, as an employee, if there is something you would avoid