Could your business be held liable for the conduct of your employees online?
Social media has a key role in many businesses and now more than ever employees are regularly engaging with customers and stakeholders online. Employers should be aware that under Section 15 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 , they can be held vicariously liable for prohibited discriminatory conduct carried out by an employee. With this in mind, it is important that employers put in place measures to reduce the risk of being held liable for an employees conduct online such as defamatory comments about colleagues and clients or online bullying and harassment.
In a recent Irish Labour Court decision, William McCamley v Dublin Bus, an employee made a number of defamatory and abusive comments about the claimant on Facebook. The Court ruled that as there was a direct link between the actions of the employee and the workplace, the employer could be held vicariously liable. However, in successfully defending the claim the employer relied on s.14 (2) of the Equality Acts and was in a position to show that they took “reasonably practicable” steps to prevent such conduct through the existence of a social media policy which prohibited such behaviour.
This ruling highlights the importance of having adequate policies in place as it can prevent an employer being held liable for the inappropriate conduct of their employees. The SFA have an updated sample social media policy available on our website which you can tailor to your own business. If you have any questions on this area, please contact Ciara McGuone on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01 605 1668.