It is a new age, and Generation Z, aptly known as Zoomers, are beginning to make up a large part of the workplace. With that comes employees who actively engage in all forms of social media. They use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok almost interchangeably. While social media certainly has its benefits, there is no doubt that underneath the surface lurks a dark underbelly.

These employees will often participate in TikTok videos, which are generally funny or uplifting skits, purely for entertainment. On TikTok, alarmingly, users sometimes can be seen filming their workplace or posting a personal video while wearing company clothing. They may even complain about colleagues or management in a TikTok video showcasing the workplace and employer in an identifiable and negative light.

Should such conduct be allowed, and can it lead to disciplinary action or even dismissal?

It is advised that all employers adopt a detailed social media policy, clearly indicating to employees what is and what is not allowed when using social media. The rules regarding the use of social media should be incorporated into the contract of employment and or the employer’s disciplinary code.

This type of misconduct has been dealt with in the South African Courts before. In the case of    Juda Phonyogo Dagane v South African Police Services (2018) 7 BLLR 669, the Labour Court dismissed a review application brought by an employee who challenged an arbitration award which upheld his dismissal for comments made by him on Facebook.

In Sedrick and Another v Krisray Pty Ltd (2011) 8 BALR 879 (CCMA) and Fredricks v JO Barkett Fashions [2011] JOL 27923 (CCMA), the employees were dismissed because of derogatory Facebook status updates. They challenged the fairness of the dismissals at the CCMA.  In both cases, the CCMA found that the employees were fairly dismissed.

As TikTok has now overtaken Facebook in terms of matter of the number of downloads and is the most used App in the

world, it may only be a matter of time until we see cases regarding its use, in our courts.

Should an employer suspect that an employee has contravened its social media policy, it is advisable to do the following:

First, investigate the matter.

Establish whether there is a link between the employee’s conduct and the employer’s business, it is important to consider if the post or video identifies the employer party and/or showcases the employer in a negative light. Should a link exist, institute disciplinary charges against the employee in terms of the social media policy and disciplinary code.

Conduct a disciplinary hearing where both parties will have an opportunity to present their respective versions. In severe cases, it may lead to the dismissal of an employee.

Article by Siliziwe Rumbu

Dispute Resolution Official at Consolidated Employers Organisation (CEO SA)