BE CARE­FUL WHAT YOU POST ON SO­CIAL ME­DIA Any­thing you say can be held against you

Your em­ployer is en­ti­tled to take dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against you if your con­duct on so­cial me­dia brings the com­pany into dis­re­pute or neg­a­tively af­fects re­la­tions in the work­place. re­ports

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

IF THE past week’s two-day grilling of Face­book founder

Mark Zucker­berg by the United States Congress has shown us any­thing, it’s that pri­vacy is long dead. Not only have tech firms been mon­etis­ing some of the most per­sonal in­ner reaches of our lives, but they don’t seem to mind too much about shar­ing our data.

Con­sumers of so­cial me­dia have be­come so blasé about the value of their data that they off­load about their in­dis­cre­tions and prej­u­dices on­line – as freely as they do pic­tures of their chil­dren and videos of cute pup­pies.

Tiffs (or “twars”) are of­ten what makes so­cial me­dia so wickedly de­li­cious, but it’s best to think be­fore you click “like” or com­ment, be­cause any­thing you say can be shared many times over. And even if your pri­vacy set­tings are in place, screen­shots can be taken and your reck­less com­ments on­line could well blow up your life.

In re­cent weeks, a hate­ful 2011 Face­book post fi­nally came to a head for a for­mer po­lice­man. Juda Da­gane, a for­mer war­rant of­fi­cer, tried, in the Jo­han­nes­burg Labour Court, to chal­lenge his un­fair dis­missal claim.

Da­gane had posted racist re­marks on the Face­book page of EFF leader Julius Malema when he was still head of the ANC Youth League.

He wrote: “(F***) this white racist (s***)! We must in­tro­duce Black apartheid. Whites have no ROOM in our heart and mind. Viva MALEMA. When the Black Mes­siah (Nel­son Man­dela) dies, we’ll teach whites some les­son. We’ll com­mit geno­cide on them. I hate whites.”

A re­porter got wind of the story, wrote about it, and the of­fi­cer’s em­ployer found out. Afrifo­rum re­ported him to the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion for hate speech and called for his dis­missal.

Afrifo­rum’s deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive, Ernst Roets, says Da­gane’s ut­ter­ances were “more than just a bla­tant form of hate speech”. “It is in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence and even mur­der.”

Da­gane was dis­missed. At the bar­gain­ing coun­cil, the com­mis­sioner noted the po­lice of­fi­cer was re­quired to pro­tect cit­i­zens ir­re­spec­tive of race, and de­cided the dis­missal was fair, so Da­gane headed to the Labour Court.

But the judge wasn’t swayed. Judge An­ton Steenkamp called the racist Face­book posts “de­spi­ca­ble” and slapped a costs or­der on Da­gane.

Judge Steenkamp noted Da­gane “was dis­missed for very se­ri­ous mis­con­duct. He, a South African Po­lice Ser­vice of­fi­cer, had un­fairly and openly dis­crim­i­nated against oth­ers (whites) on the ba­sis of race through bla­tantly dis­crim­i­na­tory racial re­marks; by bla­tantly threat­en­ing the fu­ture safety of white peo­ple; and by mak­ing re­marks on Face­book which amounted to hate speech.”

Labour and so­cial me­dia lawyer Lenja Dahms-Jansen, of Bow­mans, warns that such cases are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly preva­lent.

“Where th­ese cases have gone to the Com­mis­sion for Con­cil­i­a­tion Me­di­a­tion and Ar­bi­tra­tion or bar­gain­ing coun­cil, the ma­jor­ity of the dis­missals have been up­held as sub­stan­tively fair.”

Dahms-Jansen, who co-au­thored So­cial me­dia in the work­place with her col­league Ros­alind Davey, warns that the use of so­cial me­dia permeates all as­pects of our lives, in­clud­ing the work­place.

“The tra­di­tional scope of the work­place has been ex­tended through the use of smart­phones and so­cial me­dia. Where the con­duct of an em­ployee im­pacts on work­place re­la­tions, the courts and tri­bunals are look­ing at whether em­ploy­ers can be ex­pected to con­tinue with the em­ploy­ment re­la­tion­ship. This is the case even where the al­leged con­duct took place out­side of the work­place or work­ing hours.”

She says it’s be­come “rel­a­tively un­con­tentious” that, where the con­duct on so­cial me­dia has the po­ten­tial to bring the com­pany’s name into dis­re­pute, or where it may im­pact on work­place re­la­tions, or where em­ploy­ees are pub­lic of­fi­cers (who are sup­posed to ap­ply the law with­out fear, favour or prej­u­dice), the em­ployer would be en­ti­tled to in­sti­tute dis­ci­plinary ac­tion, which may in­clude dis­missal.

Plus, there are lim­i­ta­tions on free speech. “Ir­re­spec­tive of whether or not it (the so­cial me­dia post­ing) is racist, it amounts to in­cite­ment of im­mi­nent vi­o­lence and ad­vo­cacy of ha­tred that con­sti­tutes in­cite­ment to cause harm.”

Dahms-Jansen warns that, sim­ply be­cause users of so­cial me­dia are op­er­at­ing in a vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment, it doesn’t mean the law will treat them dif­fer­ently or they won’t face con­se­quences for their ac­tions.

“Free­dom of ex­pres­sion needs to be bal­anced with the rights to dig­nity, equal­ity and pri­vacy. If you wouldn’t want your par­ents or em­ploy­ers to see it, don’t post, com­ment on, or ‘like’ it.

“Even if your pri­vacy set­tings are in place, if that mis­con­duct comes to your em­ployer’s at­ten­tion by le­git­i­mate means, you can still be dis­missed. There just isn’t anonymity on­line.”

ge­orgina.crouth@inl.co.za

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.