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Facebook leaves employee jobless

Written by Aneela Akbar on 08 May 2012

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In the recent decision of Teggart v TeleTech Uk Ltd, a tribunal provided us with further guidance on the use of social media websites in connection to work. The tribunal ruled that TeleTech Uk Ltd dismissed Mr Teggart fairly subsequent to him making unpleasant comments about an employee on facebook.

Although the comment was made out of working hours, it was spotted by Mr Teggarts friends and colleagues. The female colleague it referred to requested Mr Teggart to remove it but the request led Mr Teggart to posting further offending comments about the female colleague. The comment referred to TeleTech and in turn TeleTech came to know about it through the general public. In a meeting held by TeleTech Mr Teggart admitted to making the comments and was subsequently dismissed. After further investigation Mr Teggart was dismissed for gross misconduct and harassment. Mr Teggart appealed and the decision was upheld by TeleTech.

Consequently, Mr Teggart bought a claim for unfair dismissal and a violation of his human rights. The tribunal dismissed his claim. Firstly, it was found that the comments made by him about another female colleague satisfied the definition of harassment in TeleTech's employee handbook and Mr Teggart lost any private rights when he posted his comments on facebook and secondly, the right to freedom of expression was not exercised reasonably in that it damaged another person's reputation she he was no longer protected by the Human Rights Act.

This case makes clarity in relation to employees using social media network sites during or outside of working hours and it warns us that one must avoid making comments about his workplace or colleagues. The judgment in this case will be persuasive not binding in the UK because the judgment was given in the Northern Ireland Tribunal.

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