The flow of Facebook cases continues unabated with
employees' desire to get themselves into trouble at work with
inappropriate postings seemingly unabated. One of the
battlegrounds concerns where the line is between what one does on
what is essentially a personal, non-work related platform and what
impact this has on one's work relationships. In the
recent case of Teggart v TeleTech UK Limited, an
employee dismissed for posting comments about a colleague in his
own time, tried to allege his employer breached his fundamental
human rights by relying on those comments. Did he
succeed? The only way to find out is to read more...
Mr Teggart worked in the Belfast call centre of TeleTech UK Limited
("TeleTech"). He posted an obscene comment in
respect of a female colleague on his Facebook page from his home.
This comment specifically mentioned TeleTech. Although the
colleague in question was blocked from viewing the comment she
heard about it and asked for it to be removed. However, this only
prompted Teggart to add a further obscene comment. Being the
respectable legal practice that we are, we will not repeat either
comment here, but, in overview, the first comment concerned the
colleague's sexual promiscuity and the second comment referred
to a farmyard animal.
The matter was later brought to the attention of TeleTech who
dismissed Teggart for gross misconduct.
Teggart appealed the decision stating that his comments were meant
as a joke and that he had not intended to harass his colleague, but
rather to "generate a vulgar distaste" for her - well
that's alright then?! He contended that TeleTech had not
followed a proper disciplinary process as they had only
investigated the complaint after his disciplinary hearing. He
further complained that he had been deprived of his rights under
Articles 8 (right to a private life), 9 (right to freedom of
thought and belief) and 10 (right to free expression) of the
Following further investigation, his appeal was dismissed and
Teggart complained to the Northern Ireland industrial
The tribunal dismissed the claim holding that TeleTech's
disciplinary panel had acted reasonably in its finding of
harassment as Teggart's comments satisfied the definition in
TeleTech's dignity at work policy. The cumulative effect of the
vulgar nature of the posting, the stated intention to create a
vulgar distaste for the female colleague, the unsavoury reaction to
her pleas to remove the posting and the sharing of the comments
with colleagues was such as to place the sanction of dismissal
within the range of reasonable responses. The tribunal also
confirmed that harassment need not involve comments made directly
to a victim; it may be brought about through comments to
Teggart's claims under the ECHR were also dismissed. By making
his comments on Facebook, he abandoned his right to consider his
comments to be private. Even though the relevant page was only open
to "friends" the comments could easily be copied and
passed on to others. The right to "belief" in Article 9
was not engaged, as it should not be construed as meaning a belief
about another person's promiscuity. Furthermore, the right to
freedom of expression in Article 10 must be exercised responsibly -
Theresa May would love this comment!
The decision confirms that offensive comments made on
social media can justify dismissal for gross misconduct even if
they are made outside work. If you haven't already then you
should take this opportunity to remind employees to give a little
more consideration to what you "Like" on Facebook.
Otherwise you could be justified in giving them a fatal
Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.
In October 2012, the Court of Appeal confirmed that a Service Provision Change ("SPC") TUPE transfer can only occur where the client who receives the service, before and after the change, remains the same (Hunter v McCarrick  EWCA Civ 1399).