Mar 242010
 March 24, 2010  Posted by  Featured News, Non-U.S., Online, Workplace

I don’t know U.K. privacy laws, but I have to wonder about a news story I saw on an Australian publication, The Age, and the reaction of The Age‘s online commenters.

As background, it seems a teenager in Greater Manchester was fired via Facebook posting by her supervisor at the Cookies coffee shop in Leigh over an incident that involved the teen losing a £10 note when she went out to buy biscuits for her co-workers. Why coffee shop employees wanted to send out for biscuits somewhat escapes both me and Chris Matyszczyk of CNET, but in any event, the teen reportedly lost the money. The message later posted to the teen’s page read:

“hiya Chelsea its Elaine from work. Sorry to send u a message like this but bin tryin to ring u but gettin no joy.

“I had to tell the owner bout u losin that tenner coz obviously the till was down at the end of day. she wasn’t very pleased at all and despite me trying to persuade her otherwise she said I have to let u go. I’m really sorry.

“If u call in in the week with your uniform i’ll sort your wages out. Once again I’m really sorry but it’s out of my hands. Elaine xx.”

Does the U.K. have any workplace privacy law that would prohibit such public firing? I’m not talking about discussing a firing publicly, which is usually not done because it is a “personnel matter,” but I’m talking about actually firing the employee on a global public forum. Tom McTague of the Mirror in the U.K. suggests that this may be the first instance of someone being sacked by social network in the U.K., but he may have forgotten about this incident. In the earlier case, however, the employee had bad-mouthed her boss on Facebook, forgetting that she had friended him. In this case, the teen did nothing to justify such public humiliation.

The commenters on the story on The Age’s web site don’t seem to see this as news or even problematic. One commenter writes, for example:

Why is it so bad that she received notice of termination over facebook? – what is the difference between a facebook message and a letter sent by post?

The difference, dear commenter, is privacy.

As for Cookies, also known as the Lancashire Tea Room, McTague reports that a staff member asked for a comment on the story said, “We don’t want to talk about this.”


Photo credit: Cavendish/Telegraph

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