News from the courts: Social media related dismissal; €7,000 award

Another case comes before the EAT in relation to social media in the workplace. In this case, a marketing assistant was awarded €7,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, after it concluded that her dismissal for use of a social media site during the working day was unfair.

The claimant worked on a full-time basis and was allowed to work a three-day week while she completed a graphic design course. From November 2011, she worked five days a week for the firm. In January 2012, the Managing Director observed the claimant on a social media site and called her into his office and dismissing her. In his view, the actions of the claimant “amounted to a waste of the company’s time and resources and her actions constituted gross misconduct”.

He accepted that the company did not have an internet social media policy in place at the time and that the claimant was not provided with a contract of employment, or payslips or a copy of the company’s disciplinary procedures.

The claimant gave evidence that she carried out all the tasks assigned to her. Her desk and computer were in full view and she never believed that she was doing anything wrong. She was never given a job description, and was “constantly seeking work” and was not provided with enough of it. She spent time on the internet “openly” and “out of boredom”. The majority of the time spent on the internet by her was “work related”, she said. She was “never given any warnings prior to her dismissal”.

Concluding that the dismissal was unfair, the Tribunal considered that it “lacked any procedural fairness insofar as no investigation or disciplinary process took place”.

(Jane Loughran v Mullingar Electrical Wholesale Ltd – UD 1098/2012)