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Can you dismiss an employee for social media misuse?

The importance of a well-drafted social media policy has been highlighted in a recent case involving a Sainsbury’s employee who was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The ex-employee, Mr Kurmajic, posted details of a driver who had used the supermarket’s car park on Facebook. The details of the post enabled readers to identify personal information about a driver, including his name, address and car registration. The post also made derogatory comments about the driver’s fitness to drive.

Mr Kurmajic was suspended from work and a disciplinary investigation began on the grounds that his conduct had brought the brand into disrepute and for breaching Sainsbury’s policies, including their social media and ‘keeping our information safe’ policies.

During his appeal hearing, Mr Kurmajic challenged the social media policy and said that he should have received training on the policy. He also denied that he breached the policy as it referred to ‘customers’ and there was no evidence that the person involved had actually been in store as a customer.

The Employment Tribunal found that whilst the Facebook post was a potentially fair reason to dismiss, the Store Manager had not conducted a thorough investigation.

The Employment Tribunal held that the Store Manager had not made himself sufficiently familiar with the contents of the policies, which it was alleged Mr Kurmajic had breached and failed to properly consider any alternatives to dismissal.

This decision highlights the need for employers to have clear policies in place with evidence that the workforce has both read and understood the content.

It is also important that when managers are conducting disciplinary proceedings that they fully understand the policies that they intend to rely upon and clearly state the full details of the alleged breach.

In this instance, Sainsbury’s could not have relied upon damage to their reputation as a reason for dismissal as there was no evidence of harm as the driver did not complain about the incident.

If you would like any further information or support with disciplinary procedures, please contact our Employment & HR team.

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