Posted: Friday 6 January 2012
Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware from my recent postings of the various employment law issues which can arise following the use of social networking forums such as Facebook and Twitter by employees (see, e.g., ‘Further Employment Law Facebook Issues’). I have now noticed a further article published yesterday on the Daily Mail website which reports on how a top executive alleges that he was forced to leave his job after he posted his details on LinkedIn, a networking site for professionals.
As the article reports, John Flexman, who earned £68,000 per year in his role as a Graduate and Development Manager, is currently claiming constructive dismissal before an Employment Tribunal following his resignation from the company, BG Group, in June last year.
According to the article, Mr Flexman’s resignation was sparked by a dispute which arose when his employers became disgruntled after he posted his CV to the LinkedIn website and ticked a box indicating that he was interested in ‘career opportunities’. After being ordered to remove his CV from the website, he was then invited to attend an internal disciplinary hearing for ‘inappropriate use of social media.’ As the article reports, according to BG Group, Mr Flexman’s actions were in breach of its policy on conflicts of interests under which employees are precluded from ticking the ‘career opportunities’ box. The hearing is still ongoing before the Reading Employment Tribunal.
Although the case is being reported very much as an issue relating to Mr Flexman “posting his CV on LinkedIn” it would appear that there is a bit more to it than that in that he appears to have posted certain information on his LinkedIn profile which portrayed the Company in a negative light. The gist of this appears to be that he cited certain bad practices of the Company, for example, high staff attrition rates and his success in reducing that attrition rate.
Whilst I don’t know the specifics of this particular case, in general terms an employee is very likely to face disciplinary action if they post on a public website comments which are detrimental to their employer.
The issue of an employee looking for work elsewhere is an interesting one though. Whilst, there is clearly no issue with an employee looking for alternative work this is, in most cases, done discreetly with the current employer only finding out about it once the employee has been offered employment elsewhere.
As a general rule, whilst in most cases it is not a particularly advisable thing to do, there is nothing to prevent an employee making it known publicly that they are looking for or would consider employment elsewhere. It will be interesting to see whether the Tribunal in the present case form a different view in circumstances where there was a policy relating to the use of the 'career opportunities' box on LinkedIn.
I can though envisage certain situations where employees holding certain roles (and most probably senior roles) could conceivably have action taken against them if they publicly announced that they were looking for work elsewhere. In such circumstances and depending exactly what the employee said and to what extent it was detrimental to the employer's interests an argument could, potentially, be made that there were grounds for dismissal on the basis of “some other substantial reason”. However, whether this was possible or not would depend very much on the facts of the case.
Given the number of employees who use LinkedIn for professional networking purposes, it will certainly be interesting to see the outcome of this case, particularly since, according to the article, it is thought to be the first in the UK in which an employee has claimed constructive dismissal following a dispute over the posting of professional details to LinkedIn.
I will keep you posted.