UCL Faculty of Laws


Prof Mantouvalou lectures Employment Appeal Tribunal judges on dismissal for social media activity

25 March 2019

Professor Virginia Mantouvalou gave a lecture to the judges of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, on dismissal for social media activity.

Professor Virginia Mantouvalou

On Thursday 21st March, Professor Virginia Mantouvalou, Professor of Human Rights and Labour Law at UCL Laws, gave a lecture to the judges of the Employment Appeal Tribunal at their annual training day.

The topic of the lecture was ‘Discipline and Dismissal for Social Media Activity’. The lecture was chaired by His Honour Judge Auerbach. In her lecture Professor Mantouvalou examined courts’ and tribunals’ decisions on dismissals on Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts. She explained that these dismissals are very common nowadays, and that courts and tribunals in the UK tend to find them fair, and recognise wide discretion to the employer.

She argued that this is problematic, and explained that two factors make dismissals for social media activity particularly challenging for courts: first, the fact that social media are online platforms that everyone can potentially access, and hence public rather than private space; second, that expression on social media, often spontaneous and thoughtless, is not viewed as a particularly valuable form of speech.

On the basis of case law of the European Court of Human Rights, she suggested that both the right to private life and the right to free speech are implicated in dismissals for social media activity, and that they should be viewed as lawful in very limited occasions, because employers should not have the right to censor the moral, political and other views and preferences of their employees even if it causes business harm.

Professor Mantouvalou said: “Social media set significant challenges to courts and tribunals that assess fairness in dismissal. I was really pleased to discuss the issues with the judges of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, who are dealing with many of these cases. The law of unfair dismissal should be interpreted in light of the Human Rights Act 1998 in a way that respects the employees’ human rights to private life and free speech against employer intrusion.”

Professor Mantouvalou recently wrote an article on the topic, which is available as part of the UCL Laws SSRN Research Papers at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3276055