Wrong to fire staff for Facebook folly: study

Wrong to fire staff for Facebook folly: study
The so-called "sex rector" in a Facebook pic pose.
Swedish employers have lost all five cases of unfair dismissal brought after employees were fired from their jobs for comments made on Facebook and other social media, according to a survey by a Swedish union group.

According to the survey by The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO), all those who have lost their jobs for social media indiscretion and have sought legal recourse have been awarded compensation.

TCO lawyers have concluded from the rulings that employers are often too quick to act to punished perceived disloyalty.

“They have obviously done so in these cases anyway,” said lawyer Dan Holke to the TCO Tidningen trade journal.

Holke pointed out however that nothing is known about any other cases which have not been subjected to a legal process.

The Local reported in May about a case opened by the trade union Unionen against a firm from Piteå in northern Sweden on behalf of two employees fired after posting “threatening” comments against a manager on Facebook.

The case ended with a compensation award for the two employees.

At the end of a March the Swedish Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) ruled in favour of the so-called “sex rector” who was fired from his job as head of a school in Luleå due to his membership of a number of Facebook groups such as “50 reasons to have sex” and “we are sex mad”.

The court ruled that the memberships were a private matter and thus not grounds for dismissal and he was awarded compensation.

“That one generally acts stupidly in one’s free time is not enough to be fired,” Dan Holke concluded from the case.

The other three cases concerned public sector employees – with two blogging about politics and the third a police officer who was accused of obscenity.

Despite the guidance provided by the five court cases, TCO concluded that the use of social media is fraught with legal uncertainty with regard to the balance between a duty of loyalty and the right to freedom of expression.

“It is hard to draw any far-reaching conclusions as there are so few cases. But the cases confirmed anyway that public sector employees enjoy more freedom to express themselves.”

TT/The Local/pvs


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