Today, most people at work are connected to the Internet and it’s widely used for effective and efficient communication. It reaches out to millions of people instantly and the possibility of defamatory postings pose a significant risk to reputational integrity of both corporate entities and individuals.
Posting anything that amounts to hate speech, incites violence or is defamatory is not protected by our Constitution. That being said, companies will not protect or preserve the employment of a person responsible for doing any of this, probably not even from their own home resources. So you don’t have to be at work to be found guilty of misconduct that has a negative effect on you employer because of the association you share by being their employee.
Everyone who has contributed to the defamatory statement is liable – it is the chain of publication that becomes important. If you like, share or re-tweet a defamatory statement, you are aligning yourself with it and opening yourself to possible reaction/legal action.
Employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees, too. This is known as vicarious liability. Of course, there must be proof that the employee committed the wrongdoing, the employee was employed by the employer at the time of the misconduct and the employee must have been acting in the course and scope of his employment at that time.
Many employees feel they have the right to make derisive statements about their employers, colleagues, managers and/or subordinates on social media platforms such as Facebook. Remember, this kind of activity may constitute serious misconduct and could result in dismissal.
Misconduct on social media takes “off duty” misconduct to a new level. The potential for reputational damage to the employer is significantly higher. It is conduct that impacts negatively on the workplace which will justify dismissal. So even when off duty and using a private computer, an employee could make themselves guilty of misconduct if the post is derogatory in any way.
Every company should implement a Social Media Policy. It should include –
- Clear guidelines and rules regarding acceptable and unacceptable use of social media
- Distinguish between personal social media use and professional social media use
- Guidelines on the risks of social media to personal and professional brands
- The consequences of breaches of the social media policy and relevant rules
- Who owns social media accounts, content and followers