A UK restaurant learned a hard lesson about disgruntled former employees, termination procedures, and social media. The Plough is a restaurant that also provides catering services. When The Plough’s head chef, Jim Knight, requested a weekend off in December and to spend Christmas with his family, he claims he was fired. Knight had only been working at The Plough since October. According to his former employer, Knight was aware from the beginning that Sundays were The Plough’s busiest catering days and that all chefs were expected to work on Sundays. It would seem fairly obvious that The Plough would not be willing to accommodate Knight when he said he would not be able to work weekends for the near future. However, Knight was not pleased when the restaurant let him go. He decided to take matters into his own hands after he was fired.
Around the time Knight was hired, he created a twitter account for The Plough. He claims he created the account with his employer’s permission. But The Plough never took control over the account and failed to revoke his access to it. This allowed Knight to get his revenge on twitter. He signed on to the restaurant’s twitter account and started posting about his firing. The tweets stated that the restaurant fired Knight because he asked for time off for family commitments and that the restaurant did not care that it was a week before Christmas or that he had to care for a new baby. Since the story went viral, The Plough’s twitter feed has been edited and no longer contains the vengeful tweets. It also appears that The Plough has decided not to take control of the twitter account since the tweets on both The Plough and Knight’s account are the same.
Social Media and Terminations
Washington state law addresses what employers can and cannot require from their employees in regards to the employee’s social media. There are only a few circumstances where an employer can demand access to an employee’s personal social media account. But there are no specific laws relating to an employer’s social media or how it is handled. This means it is up to each individual employer to create and maintain their social media policies and practices.
Since employers frequently allow their employees or third-parties to control the company’s social media presence. The lack of state laws also means that employers should consider how access to the company’s social media accounts is protected and transferred in the event the individual in charge of social media is fired or leaves the company. Many employers have a policy of shutting off access to company email and other online accounts when employees leave. If an employer has a social media account, changing passwords and access rights should be part of any separation procedure for those with social media access.
If you have concerns about termination or social media in employment, an HKM employment law attorney can help.