The Employment Appeals Tribunal has ruled PJF Insurances of Pearse Street, Kinsale, Co Cork, had not unfairly dismissed clerical assistant Aoife O’Mahony over the incident.
The directors of the firm, Padraig and Lisa Fitzgerald, gave evidence that they were satisfied with Ms O’Mahony’s overall work but they found her “over-exuberant” at times. They explained that they had called her to a meeting on January 14, 2010, to ask her to “tone it down” when dealing with business clients.
The EAT heard Ms Fitzgerald accidentally came across the claimant’s social network site, which was open on a computer screen in the office a week later.
Ms Fitzgerald described being shocked to discover both the company and herself were described in disparaging terms.
Ms O’Mahony, of Clashmore, Kinsale, agreed that the two directors could access her Facebook site when she was called to a disciplinary meeting.
An examination of the Facebook page revealed several more critical comments, some containing expletives, about her employers, including one which labelled Ms Fitzgerald “a bitch”.
Ms O’Mahony was suspended on full pay pending a further investigation and was fired later that month. The Fitzgeralds claimed she was dismissed for overuse of the internet and because they felt trust had been breached.
In evidence, Ms O’Mahony acknowledged she had used certain regrettable words about her employers but stressed she had apologised for using offensive language.
However, the tribunal ruled the offensive material constituted a breach of trust so significant as to make Ms O’Mahony’s position untenable.