FREEDOM of expression is recognised and the Internet has provided the tool for individuals to express their opinions and views.
However, this recognised right should be exercised sparingly and not abused or misused. Abuse of the freedom of expression may expose the individual to civil and criminal liability.
In the sphere of employment relations, an employee is expected to uphold the company’s good name and image. Any conduct of an employee at the workplace which is likely to damage the reputation of the employer may constitute misconduct and will lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Likewise, an employee’s outside workplace activities may trigger disciplinary action when the wrongful conduct of the employee damages the company’s reputation or brings the company into public disrepute.
Hence, an employee should avoid making insensitive or defamatory remarks against the company or others on social media as such conduct or action has the potential of bringing the company into odium and disrepute in the minds of right-thinking members of society.
The situation includes when an employee publishes derogatory statements online against an individual or authority. In the aforesaid circumstances, the termination is warranted as their continued employment would pose a risk to the employer’s reputation.
Recently, several employees of local companies came under fire for insulting Sultan Muhammad V when he stepped down as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Earlier, a local automobile dealer dismissed its employee over her insensitive Facebook remark about the death of the firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.
Although the act was committed outside the workplace, such conduct has implications on the employer’s goodwill and reputation with a high possibility of the public shunning the employer for retaining such ill-manned employees. It is noteworthy that the employment relationship is built on mutual trust and confidence that calls for an employee to uphold the company’s reputation at all times.
In short, an employee ought to take heed of the repercussions arising from sending fake news to public websites or posting information that is defamatory of others even if such action is done outside the workplace and work hours.
ASHGAR ALI ALI MOHAMED
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws
International Islamic University Malaysia