Reasonable management instructions, reputational damage and employers’ rights of action

Posted on February 14th, 2012 by

Luis Suarez’ refusal to shake Patrice Evra’s hand and the subsequent negative backlash has created a situation which requires careful and considered handling by Liverpool FC. Premier League footballers’ contracts contain detailed clauses covering a player’s conduct on and off the pitch and, unlike most jobs, give the club / employer the right to “fine” the player / employee for misconduct. The options open to Liverpool FC are explored further here, in an article in which I am quoted in The Independent.

An employee’s refusal to follow a reasonable management instruction is a serious issue which, if not addressed at the time, could give rise to further employee relations issues and undermine any later attempts to take disciplinary action, should the conduct be repeated. Employers should not let such matters pass without taking some form of action, whether a word of caution that is recorded on the employee’s personnel file or a disciplinary penalty dependent upon the severity of the employee’s conduct.

Increasingly, given the 24/7 media cycle we live in today, senior executives of large corporations are in the public spotlight with their actions both public and private coming under increased scrutiny as the so called public face of the company. With the rise of social media sites, You Tube and Twitter, more junior employees’ have also seen their actions and comments become news stories. Sometimes these stories have the potential to impact negatively on the image of the company and we have seen a number of examples of situations where employees have been dismissed because of what they have said or done whether in the media, Twitter or otherwise. Whilst employers can take disciplinary action where an employee has caused or potentially caused reputational damage to the company’s image, it is advisable to seek legal advice first to ensure that any potential knee jerk or emotional response to the circumstances does not breach any of the employee’s rights and lead to further negative publicity in the future.