Negative comments on Facebook - Justifying a dismissal for serious cause?

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Date:
03 Oct 2013

<p>The Brussels Labour Court decided in a recent ruling that an employee who regularly posted negative comments about his employer on his public Facebook page was dismissed for serious cause without breach of his privacy rights.</p>

The Brussels Labour Court decided in a recent ruling that an employee who regularly posted negative comments about his employer on his public Facebook page was dismissed for serious cause without breach of his privacy rights.

The employer in the case at hand was a listed company which discovered that one of its executives regularly, and in particular on the day interim results were announced, made sceptical and critical comments on the policy of the company on his Facebook page. The executive was dismissed for serious cause.

The employee invoked his privacy rights to try and prevent his employer presenting in court the data it had collected on his Facebook page as evidence justifying the dismissal. The comments on the policy of the company were on a part of the employee's Facebook page that was public and accessible to anyone. In the Labour Court's opinion, the employee could not reasonably expect that non-friends cannot take note of and use these data. However, the Court ruled that the Act of 13 June 2005 on electronic communication was violated because the employer took note of data that were not addressed to him personally. Applying the so-called Antigoon-doctrine, the court confirmed that this violation did not cause the data collected from the Facebook page to have no value as evidence.

The Labour Court ruled that critical comments by an executive of a listed company, found on a part of a social networking site that is publicly accessible, justify a dismissal for serious cause.

 

> Action point

Inform your employees, e.g. by means of an ICT Policy, to refrain themselves of critical or negative comments on the company on social networking sites.