In the final instalment of our constructive dismissal series, we look at the historical case of Flexman v BG Group ET/2701998/11.
John Flexman is reportedly the first person in the world to bring a case for constructive dismissal over social media.
Flexman was the Graduate and Development Manager of BG Group, a gas exploration company based in Reading, England. The problem started when Mr Flexman uploaded his CV and ticked the box in his LinkedIn profile page to register his interest in ‘career opportunities’. He was contacted by his manager whilst on a family holiday in the United States and ordered to remove his CV. On his return he was accused of ‘inappropriate use of social media’ and called to attend an internal disciplinary hearing.
BG Group claimed that Flexman breached its social media policies by uploading his CV to LinkedIn and ticking the “career opportunities” box on his LinkedIn profile. It also accused Flexman of breaching confidentiality by stating on his CV that he was assisting the company in reducing its “attrition rate.” Flexman eventually resigned and claimed constructive dismissal.
The Employment Tribunal upheld Flexman’s claim of constructive dismissal due to unacceptable delays in the company’s dealing of the case and the company’s failure to address a grievance related to the incident.
Forbes’ Kashmir Hill contended that the conflict between an employee’s desire to brag about what they’ve done at a company and that company’s desire to keep such things under wrap is a common one in the social media age. “As I’ve written before, corporate spies say there are lots of juicy tidbits to be found in LinkedIn profiles. Also at issue here appears to be a company’s sensitivity to its employees playing the field. Finding an employee on LinkedIn seeking “career opportunities” is a little like discovering your significant other has an active OKCupid account” writes Hill.
Through their omnipresence and power to make or break public perception of individuals and organisations, social media sites are now pervading into contractual relationships between employer and employee and destroying the sense of mutual trust and confidence. Employers must ensure they are one (or a few!) steps ahead of employees and have proper social media policies in place protect their reputation as well as stop possible leaks of confidential information.
To us at Har Abada Nasara, the Flexman Revolution is a prophetic indication of the shape of things to come in constructive dismissal. This case may set the trend for a more litigacious generation in the workplace. Employers in general and human resources practitioners in particular must be prepared for this wave of change brought about by a new breed of employees who have savoir-faire in both law and technology. The need for human resources practitioners to master more than just everyday operational personnel management skills cannot be emphasised enough.