We have long warned of the possible positive and negative implications of social media use in the workplace and a case over the festive period showed exactly why the topic should be taken seriously.
Justine Sacco, a PR Executive (now former PR executive) of media company IAC, made headlines around the world when she sent out a tweet reading "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!" prior to boarding a 12 hour flight to her destination. Within hours the tweet received over 3,000 retweets attracting negative comments, aimed not just at her, but at her employer.
Ms Sacco’s public apology upon landing was not enough to save her job and within 24 hours, IAC released a statement confirming that they had parted ways with her.
Whilst the exact details of "parting ways" was never fully disclosed in these circumstances, any such behaviour by an employee in the UK might be construed as gross misconduct, entitling the employer to dismiss the employee following a full investigation into the facts. When deciding on whether a tweet or Facebook post is worthy of gross misconduct, an employer may take into account the negative publicity that it receives as a result of the employees tweet or post.
This case is a key lesson for employees as to the dangers of irresponsible or thoughtless social media posts, the result of which may not only cost them their job, but also tarnish any future career.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.