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An employee posting about work on social media doesn’t always meme a fair dismissal.

April 30, 2024

There’s nothing new about employees being dismissed because of social media posts. As social media platforms continue to grow in prevalence as a communication method, and way of life for many, it is no surprise that we continue to see case examples where employers take exception to something which has been posted by an employee. It is not just ordinary working people who get into bother over their musings – there are plenty of examples involving celebrities and other high-profile people who seem to forget to think before they post (and then hire a PR guru in a bid to undo the damage). 

In the early days of social media developing as a “thing” in employment law, one of the key messages for employers was to implement a policy setting out the boundaries and expectations as to use of social media. Arguments about the distinction between private and public profiles were well aired in the tribunals – privacy arguments often defeat by the “once you post you lose control” nature of social media. Social media has of course evolved and there are many more platforms available than in the early days. Just last week, a case was reported of a primary school teacher who was fairly dismissed for, amongst other things, teaching a class of year 5 children (aged 9/10) a Tik-Tok dance! 

One of the biggest problem areas for an employer is deciding where the line lies when it comes to employee social media posts. What is acceptable and what is not? What justifies a dismissal? The employer’s policy is a good starting point but of course that cannot cater for every scenario. High level comments which are plainly offensive or discriminatory, or which are targeted towards a specific colleague will be easy to identify. What about posts which are more generic or cryptic? Employers are well advised to take a step back, assess the extent to which the post has been viewed and apply a common sensed approach. Sometimes we see employers who adopt a knee-jerk reaction to something, giving it an elevated status of importance because it has been posted online. 

In the recent ET case of Smith v Turnock Ltd, an assembly operative re-posted a meme on her Facebook page. The meme consisted of an image of a blindfolded woman and captions “Weve all had jobs like this…. How management act after you and your co-workers clearly point the issues at work”. The employer’s social media policy stated that nothing should be posted on social media that could reasonably be considered to damage or adversely affect the company. 


The claimant was called to a meeting and dismissed for gross misconduct. The procedure adopted by the employer… let’s just say, it was not textbook. The tribunal, on examination of the post, ultimately decided that the dismissal was unfair. It was unclear to the tribunal the extent to which the meme post had reached an audience. The Judge found it unlikely that this post would have damaged or adversely affected the company. It was not directly critical of the employer’s organisation, nor could it be linked to the claimant’s working environment. The tribunal found that a warning or even re-education would have been appropriate.

My own personal favourite meme depicts a man sitting on a step wearing a pair of sandals. Beside him sits a goat looking towards the man. The caption: “Here mate… av goat they flip flops”. Probably not something which would result in a sacking, were I to post it. That said, if in doubt, don’t post. Beware. Be aware. And employers, be fair. Don’t over-egg the importance of something just because it is posted online.

If you have any questions on this on any other area of Employment law, please get in touch with Blackadders Employment Team, working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and across Scotland.

The opinions expressed in this site are of the author(s) only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Blackadders LLP.

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