Employer’s Liability for Employee’s Use of Social Media

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The Employment Tribunal has found Carphone Warehouse to be liable for the actions of their staff over a social network update. Mr Otomewo alleged harassment by colleagues who had managed to access his Facebook account and changed his Facebook status to “Finally came out the closet. I am gay and proud”. He claimed to be embarrassed by the comment due to the accessibility of his Facebook profile by his friends and family, even though Mr Otamewa was neither gay nor his colleagues believed him to be. The Employment Tribunal found that as these actions had taken place during the course of employment, the employer was liable. As Facebook is a public forum displayed to people who were friends and family of the claimant, the Tribunal recognised there are prejudices against gay people currently in society and the comments made by the claimant’s work colleagues were intrusive into his personal life in a public forum. A decision has yet to be made regarding the penalty to Carphone Warehouse for the actions of their staff. Employers can be held liable for actions of a discriminatory nature that occur during the course of employment by employees, unless the employer can prove that they have taken “all reasonable steps” to prevent the actions being performed. It is irrelevant whether the employer knew of the conduct or whether they condoned the actions. To stop you from being found liable in a similar situation, make sure that you have the right policies and procedures in place to prevent discrimination occurring in your workplace.

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