Social Association #4: safe, not sorry

Social Association #4: safe, not sorry

Although there are many factors to consider before an employer can discipline an employee for Social Media misconduct there are scenarios that could qualify as legitimate grounds for dismissal. Think twice about venting about your employer on Social Media.

The question as to what constitutes grounds for dismissal in terms of Social Media misconduct is not an easy one to answer. One would think that what an employee does after work generally falls without the scope of the employment relationship and that an employer would accordingly not have a right to discipline an employee for their action outside of the working environment. However, this has proven time and time again to be wrong, if it can be proven and/or shown that there is a nexus between an employee’s personal conduct and that of the employer’s business there exists a cause for an employer to discipline an employee. This is effectively known as off-duty misconduct.

Posts or content that contain derogatory, derisive or disparaging remarks and or comments about the employer and the business which brings the employer’s name and or business into disrepute or portrays them in a negative light constitutes grounds for dismissal.

Some aspects that need to be taken into consideration when making a decision in relation to disciplining or dismissing an employee for their Online misconduct, such as whether or not there was a public outcry over the post and whether or not the employee was as fault in making the statement, whether the employee’s conduct has caused irreparable damage to the employment relationship and if the employee’s conduct is so morally reprehensible that it leaves the employer with little to no choice but to dismiss the employee.

That said employers need to be mindful that while dismissing an employee for conduct on Social Media might be lawful it is not always the appropriate response and it is important to bear in mind that the misconduct by the employee must effectively render the continued employment intolerable and the correct procedure for dismissal must be followed.

– By Denis Warren-Tangney, BProc LLB.
Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

Social Association #3: making it official

Social Association #3: making it official

Protect your Brand reputation and manage your Company’s liability with a clear Corporate Social Media Policy and educate your staff in general Social Media conduct. The third instalment in our blog-series on Social Media law, written by Denis Warren-Tangney of Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

The importance of a Social Media Policy

There are two very good reasons why your company should have a social media policy:

1. To protect your company’s brand and reputation – employees are inevitably associated with your company (the more senior the employee the closer the link to the company), what they say may damage your company’s brand and/or reputation.

2. To manage your company’s liability – it is impossible to control what your employees say on Social Media, but you can be vicariously liable for what they have said. This risk can only be limited by having a Social Media Policy in place.

The consequences of an employees post on Social Media can be very severe, for both the employer and the employee which is why it is important for companies to have Social Media policies designed to clearly set out the employers’ expectations for appropriate behaviour to limit the company’s exposure to legal problems and public embarrassment.

When an employee gets into hot water for posts they submitted on Social Media it is not just the employees that get into trouble but the employers who suffer as much if not more for the actions of their employees.

The Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration “CCMA” has made rulings on more than one occasion in favour of employers who have dismissed employees as a result of Social Media posts.

What should be contained in a Social Media Policy
  • Make it clear who is authorised to speak on behalf of your company in the media and on Social Media platforms.
  • Protect the confidentiality of your company’s information, including trade secrets and client information.
  • Regulate the use of your company’s trademarks and or letterheads.
  • Clearly state what the company deems acceptable methods for business communications. Social Media should not be used for business communications between employees, or employees and clients. Using Social Media for business communications blurs the line between business and personal.
  • Provide guidelines for participation in Social Media (what is your company’s values and how do you expect your employees to behave) this includes moral and social standards.
  • Educate your employees about the risks of:
    – posting defamatory statements;
    – copyright infringements;
    – anti-competitive comments; and
    – discriminatory or offending posts.

– By Denis Warren-Tangney, BProc LLB.
Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

Social Associaction #2: the work/play nexus

Social Association #2: the work/play nexus

Social Media has transformed from a platform for personal social networking into an altogether much more complex vehicle such as being used as a modern-day Marketing tool and means for conducting business and obtaining a new client base. Your private and/or personal Social Media profile, or use thereof, is not considered as such especially where a nexus can be created to a person’s employment. The second instalment in our blog-series on Social Media law, written by Denis Warren-Tangney of Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

The birth of Social Media

We live in what we refer to today as the Age of Information (also referred to as the Digital Age, Computer Age or New Media Age). The shift from traditional methods of communication and industry practices arose from the development of modern technology.

The advent of this cutting-edge technology has changed the way in which people live their lives, communicate with one another, socialise, share information, conduct business and stay abreast of developments and or new trends through the development of new user-devices and platforms in which people can interact with one another both socially and professionally.

One of the main objectives of these advancements in technology being to simplify the way people perform these daily tasks by making it easier, quicker and more accessible for the user.

The creation of the Web and or Internet has given rise to something called “Social Networking” and or “Social Media” which allows users to connect and communicate with a much broader group of people. The use of social media platforms has grown in such a phenomenal way that it has since become one of the most prominent forms of communication where some people almost maintain a permanent online presence.

Social media has become on of the most popular forms of communication not only for our personal lives, but also for business and the work place its popularity largely based on the instant, frequently updated content which is easily accessible with smartphones and modern technology.

Social Media and the workplace

The fact is that Social Media has transformed from an entertaining past-time and means for social networking into something altogether much more complex such as being used as a modern-day marketing, promoting tool and means for conducting business and obtaining a new client base. It can assist businesses by enabling them to gain valuable insight about consumers, their buying behaviour and patterns, increase brand awareness and loyalty, maintain current customer base and increase repeat sales/services, increase traffic on their website and increase customer experience and gaining valuable feedback from customers and or clients.

The important thing to remember when using Social Media is that a person’s private and/or personal Social Media profile or use thereof is not considered as such especially where a nexus can be created to a person’s employment. There has recently been a rise in cases where an employee has been dismissed by their employer due to their social media activity.

An employer-employee relationship is already complex and the risk to business amongst other issues such as reputation risks, goodwill, defamation, vicarious liability and divulgence of confidential information are just some of the factors that need to be considered by an employer in what they deem is acceptable social media use. It is glaringly obvious that Social Media is here to stay and that it is impossible for an employer to prevent their employees from using it, this is why it is so important to have a Social Media policy in place, informing their employees of the dangers of including the company name in their social media profile and providing them with guidelines in acceptable practice.

– By Denis Warren-Tangney, BProc LLB.
Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

Social Association #1: The rules of conduct

Social Association #1: The rules of conduct

Social Media has long been an invaluable tool of the trade in Online Marketing. Communicating Brand messages and interacting with target audiences have become commonplace practices on various Social Media platforms. Are you aware of the “rules of conduct” and the legal implications of communicating on Social Media? The first instalment in our blog-series on Social Media law, written by Denis Warren-Tangney of Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators.

Social Media: a quick summary of the leading platforms

Social Media is a web-based platform which allows users to generate and share various forms of content via a collection of Online communication channels which are dedicated to host and or publish this community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration with other individuals and organisations.

Prime examples
  • Facebook: a popular free social networking website that allows users to create profiles, upload photos and video content, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. It is also a very effective marketing tool and is used to promote businesses.
  • Twitter: a microblogging service which allows registered users to broadcast short posts known as tweets.
  • Wikipedia: a free open-content Online encyclopaedia where anyone who is registered on the site can create articles for publication on the site.
  • LinkedIn: a social networking site designed specifically for business networking where members can establish a network of people they know and trust professionally.
  • Reddit: a social news website where stories are promoted by its members. the site is broken up into sub-communities known as subreddits which is further broken up into categories such as technology, politics and or music etc.
  • Pinterest: a social curation website for sharing and categorising images Online which contain descriptions.
  • Instagram: a free, Online photo-sharing application and social network platform that allows users to edit and upload photos and short videos through a mobile app. Users also have the option of making their profile private so that only their followers can view their posts.
  • Snapchat: a mobile app and service for sharing photos, videos, and messages with other people, it can also be used to send quick text messages that disappear once the recipient reads them.
  • Tumblr: a microblogging and social networking website which allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog, users can follow other users’ blogs.

– By Denis Warren-Tangney, BProc LLB.
Warren-Tangney Attorneys and Mediators