Duncan Lewis

A company’s decision to remove an employee for posting offensive comments about a co worker was upheld by a tribunal

Date: (4 May 2012)    |    

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A Tribunal in Belfast has upheld a decision by a firm who dismissed an employee for gross misconduct after he posted offensive comments aimed at a co-worker on Facebook.
In the case of Teggart v TeleTech UK Limited, Teggart made a Facebook posting referring to the promiscuity of a female work colleague ("Ms A") from his home computer, and in his own time. Ms A had not seen the Facebook comments, but was told about them by another colleague.
Instead of removing the offensive remark, Teggart posted a further lewd comment about Ms A, who was naturally upset and distressed by the comments. The incident was reported to TeleTech by a concerned colleague of Ms A and Teggart.
The tribunal found that the Facebook posts did amount to sexual harassment, and were against the employer's disciplinary and code of conduct policies. Upholding the employer's decision to dismiss, the tribunal rejected Teggart's argument that he had made private comments in his circle of friends and that his rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 had been interfered with.
The tribunal said as soon as Teggart put his comments on his Facebook pages, which was in the public domain he had relinquished any right to consider his comments as being private.
It's not just on Facebook that employees can face music for bullying colleagues. Other things construed as cyber bullying are;
• Sending offensive or threatening emails to a colleague, especially where that person has asked you to stop.
• Texting or tweeting.
• Sharing a person's private data online.
• Bombarding someone with emails where previous email approaches have been rejected. This can happen where a superior is placing unrealistic expectations on another employee, leading to the distress of that employee, and can amount to cyber bullying in extreme cases.