A pub manager who was fired for insulting two customers in a conversation with friends on Facebook has lost her claim for unfair dismissal.
The incident occurred when the woman was at work and was herself on the receiving end of some verbal abuse from the disruptive customers. The couple were told to leave and were barred from the pub.
Couple abused on Facebook
However, the manager was still very wound up and in an attempt to vent her frustration she updated her Facebook status using her mobile phone. This update developed into a conversation with some friends , including off duty members of staff, in which she named the customers and the pub chain. This took place while she was still at work.
In the conversation the woman continued to vent her distaste for the couple and at one point said she hoped the woman would break her hip.
The daughter of the couple saw the comments and made a complaint to the chain. They investigated and the manager admitted to making the comments. She was fired for gross misconduct.
The manager had needed to vent her frustration
The manager took the case to an employment tribunal. She said that she had been provoked and was still angry and upset when she made the comments. She didn’t deserve to be fired because although she hadn’t acted correctly there had been mitigating circumstances.
She also said that she had thought that the privacy settings on her Facebook account had been set so that only her former school friends and current work colleagues would have been able to see her comments.
This wasn’t the case and the woman actually had 646 friends, all of whom would have had access to the conversation. Any of her friends who contributed to the conversation would have also put it in front of all of their friends.
Breach of social media policy
The pub chain had a social media policy in place which states that employees must not bring the company into disrepute. They also have a 24 hour hot line for employees to call in situations where they have to calm down after dealing with unpleasant customers.
The employment tribunal ruled in favour of her employers. It said that it agreed that the manager was in breach of the company’s social media policy and that the nature of her comments had brought the company into disrepute.
She could have used the hotline instead of naming the chain and the customers in the public domain.
The fact she had done this while she was still at work was not good but even if she had been at home it might still have been grounds for dismissal.
Be careful on Facebook and Twitter
It‘s important for employees to be careful what they say on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Many companies have social network policies in place and situations like this one can result in the employee losing their job.