Are Employers Disregarding our Freedom of Expression and our Right to Privacy?

Qadir Mohammed (Student)

Arguments made by Professor Virginia Mantouvalou of UCL state that courts and employers are excessively harsh on those they employ in relation to posts they broadcast online.

Social media is a dimension which is changing our lives in many ways. These changes can be both positive and negative. A post put up by an employee can affect a business, so it is no wonder employers choose carefully who they wish to employ as those working for them usually reflect their business image. An unnecessary controversy is something businesses do not want to deal with.

Social media posts will never please everyone though. For example, a post may be seen as stupid or offensive by one person, but another may see nothing wrong with it. This topic is very subjective, so how can a distinction be made? And are the consequences that follow proportionate to what has occurred?

Angela Gibbin’s story is one such example that is embroiled in controversy. Angela was employed by the British Council, when she commented on a Facebook photo of Prince George saying “white privilege. That cheeky grin is the (already locked-in) innate knowledge that he is royal, rich advantaged and will never know any difficulties or hardships in life”. Her comment got a mixed reaction from the public after her post went viral once it was published by the Sun and she later lost her job due to gross misconduct. She brought a claim for unfair dismissal, which was dismissed. Professor Mantouvalou claims that tribunals often disregard the fact that employees have a right to free speech and privacy.

The expectation of privacy has been diminishing in the employment sector due to the fact employees are ordered to comply with their employer’s social media policy. Professor Mantouvalou’s view is that we should use the standard test of proportionality set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 10 is another piece of legislation which ties into this topic and details our freedom of expression. Employers should acknowledge this and allow their employees to make critical comments of others and voice their political views without fear of consequences.

Employment is not the only place where social media comments are being used. They are now also being admitted in evidence in Court and can sometimes sway a judge into a decision which can cause unequal and unfair results.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can offer free legal advice on employment issues as well as other areas such as personal injury, family and probate. Please call on 01782 294800 to book an appointment with us at various locations.

 

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