Careful of what you say on social media, to keep your job, warns labour expert

JOHANNESBURG – TWITTER  and Facebook posts can certainly change what people think of you; they can also alter the way people view the company you work for … and the consequences for you could be dire.

Speaking at the 28th Annual Labour Law Conference, which started on Thursday at the Sandton Convention Centre, Rosalind Davey, a director at Bowman Gilfillan, said that many employees felt they had carte blanche to make derisive statements about their employers, colleagues, managers or subordinates on Facebook. She warned that these statements could constitute misconduct and warrant disciplinary sanctions including dismissal.

She added that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had accepted that posts on social media may warrant dismissal. In this light, she said, discipline needed to be consistently applied.

“Not all derisive comments on social media will warrant disciplinary action, for example, if the the post constitutes conduct in furtherance or support of a protected strike or a protected disclosure, dismissal may not be permissible,” said Davey.

Davey added that the fact that an employer could be held vicariously liable for the misdeeds of its employees on social media did not mean that employees would be exempt from liability.

“To help mitigate the risks, it’s vital for employers to have a social media strategy, a social media policy, train staff and have enforcement mechanisms [in place],” she said.

She concluded that a social media policy should include clear guidelines and rules regarding acceptable and unacceptable uses of social media, as well as outlining the consequences of breaches of the social media policy and relevant rules, so that employees understood the risks associated with using social media and the potential impact on their company’s reputation.