Johannesburg – An employee has been fired and two others suspended for posting Facebook updates considered unacceptable by the their companies, The Times reported on Wednesday.
A 23-year-old administration clerk at a clothing factory south of Durban lost his job after being reported by a co-worker for calling his boss a “serial masturbator” on Facebook.
Wits Law Clinic Professor Willem de Klerk said the Constitution promotes freedom of expression “provided that what is expressed is based on fact”.
“There is a huge difference between having your say based on fact and using the platform to slag off your employer,” De Klerk said.
Bloggers have previously come under fire for writing defamatory statements about people or employers, but being fired on the basis of a Facebook status update is a relatively new phenomenon to South Africa, say experts.
A 25-year-old Johannesburg-based Facebook user was suspended for punting a competitor?s product on her profile homepage.
Another, also 25, was suspended for venting about his Pretoria-based employer’s alleged laziness.
Malicious comments illegal
De Klerk warned that malicious Facebook comments are as illegal as verbal defamatory statements.
But he suggests that the employer should consider whether that was the only outlet to express a grievance.
“But if the employee crossed the line and deliberately made comments to be malicious, then he should be fired,” De Klerk said.
Labour lawyer Johann van Zyl said many South African companies have blocked Facebook but are also wising up to the need for labour policies designed to prevent employees from bringing the company into disrepute in their private time.
Van Zyl said labour lawyers expect to see more cases of internet abuse and online defamation being brought against employees as the technology continues to grow, the newspaper reported. Read More
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