What should you do if you are advised that an employee has posted derogatory comments on their Facebook account, the content of which could be considered as discriminatory?

We advised on a case where an employee had posted comments on their Facebook page about another work colleague who was pregnant. The post made reference to the employee and the unborn child in a derogatory manner.  The employee, whom the comments were made about, became aware of them through a work colleague and subsequently raised a grievance.

Our client had a social media/networking and equal opportunities policy and in addition, the employee raising the complaint was able to provide evidence of the Facebook post which showed the inappropriate comments.

The team at Practical HR, therefore, discussed the options with the client and gave advice about the next steps, taking into consideration what the policies stated together with legislation around disciplinary / dismissal.

The employee who made the comments was initially spoken to regarding the content.  He admitted to writing it but didn’t think any of his work colleagues who he was friends with on Facebook would have shown his post to the employee he had commented about.  The employee was suspended pending further investigation.

Following further investigation, our client instigated the disciplinary procedure and concluded that the comments made were discriminative and in breach of their social media and equal opportunities policy.  Our client reached the decision that the employee’s actions had amounted to gross misconduct and his employment was terminated accordingly.

In this case, there were some important matters that were considered when deciding whether to dismiss the employee:

1.    The company had relevant policies in place and these also confirmed that such conduct could be considered to be gross misconduct.

2.    The company could show that the policy documents had been clearly communicated to the employee.

3.    There was evidence of the comments.

4.    The company followed a full a fair procedure before making the decision to dismiss.

If you are faced with a situation that you believe is serious enough to consider dismissal (gross misconduct) and you wish to obtain further advice, then please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email