With the tremendous popularity of social and business networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, employers are increasingly finding that employees are turning to such sites to air grievances about their employer and fellow colleagues. If a disgruntled employee or former employee chooses to post negative material about his or her employer or a colleague online, this has the potential to cause serious damage to the employer’s reputation at the click of a button.
In addition to taking disciplinary action in the case of current employees, employers can take proactive steps to limit the potential for damage and to repair any damage caused to their reputation. It can be surprisingly easy to have defamatory or damaging material removed from the internet by way of a suitably worded demand to the website host. However, at other times employers can come up against sites based outside the jurisdiction that are adept at evading unwanted communication and consider themselves entirely above legal constraint.
- As soon as you become aware of the negative comment, begin to collect evidence as this may be useful in any subsequent disciplinary or legal action.
- Be aware that the remedies available to employers differ depending on whether the negative comment is defamatory, a breach of contract or a breach of confidentiality.
- If there has been a disclosure of personal data, investigate whether or not there is a requirement to report the personal data breach.
- Where you are unable to identify the author of the negative comment, contact the social networking site and request further information from which the author can be traced.
- Take steps to remove the comment and consider bringing disciplinary action and/or civil proceedings against the employee.
- Where the comment is defamatory, remember that the employee may be able to justify it and, as a result, successfully defend a civil action.
- Be aware that, if you bring a civil claim of defamation against the social networking site, the site may plead the defence of “innocent dissemination” unless you have previously notified it of the unlawful comment.
- If the offending material relates to one of your competitors, be aware of the remedies available to the competitor and consider making an “offer of amends“.
- Consider each case on its facts, and take into account the costs and time associated with bringing civil proceedings.
- Introduce a policy on the use of social media and social networking sites.
So if you would like further information on how to deal with such incidents or need a Social Media Policy then get it touch…….
Tel: 01626 367595