Threatened with sack over Twitter account

(41 Posts)
TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 19:19:25

Hello, and help! And apologies for length ... Reported from Legal Matters as this is probably the better section.

I am currently going through redundancy and am doing a trial in the job which is replacing mine. I don't want the job, as I believe the company has engineered the change in order to get rid of me - I have a statement from my former line manager explicitly stating that our boss asked him to suggest changes to my role with a view to get me out. I only took the trial on advice, and intend on saying I don't want the job next week.

Last week, my boss called me into his office and quizzed me about my personal Twitter account, which has several thousand followers and which I changed the name of two months ago when the redundancies were first announced to remove the name of my employer. He said the company view is that it owns the account and that I had to change it back by the end of the day or be in breach of contract.

I looked up the company Twitter policy, which states employees using Twitter for work must put the name of the company in their Twitter name, but are free to take the account with them and its followers, as long as it is renamed.

That was on Wednesday, and the company still hasn't conceded the account is mine. I am afraid they might come back and say we've rewritten the policy or something similar.

My question is what should I do if this does happen? If I stand my ground, would I have a case for unfair dismissal? For context, other staff members have left with company branded accounts and have not been required to hand them back.

It may also be worth mentioning I am the office union rep, and we have just successfully balloted for strike action. I have never used my account to criticise the company before (and don't intend to).

Coffeethrowtrampbitch Mon 16-Jun-14 19:29:59

As far as I know if they changed the t&c's you would have to sign off the change so they cannot change them without your knowledge.

I would speak to your union asap about this, they will have experience of people being managed out.

Do you post as yourself on the account, or on behalf of the company? It would be easier for them to argue it is their intellectual property if you only ever post company information and responses, and no personal ones. Dh works in social media and is of the opinion you can't be forced to hand it back, but if you have only ever tweeted on behalf of the company they could force you to remove any defamatory tweets, but not to give them the account.

spamm Mon 16-Jun-14 19:34:30

I am unclear about something. Why would you have had a branded account but not posted on behalf of the company? Unfortunately that muddies the water a little here, although their social media policy seems to be clear that the account ultimately belongs to you.

Make sure you have a dated copy of the social media policy and take a page print of your twitter account - so you can prove the name change.

YoureAnIdiotGoodNewsImTakingOv Mon 16-Jun-14 19:35:05

I work in social media too, but I wouldn't be quite so sure.

Do you post business info, or is it solely personal? Any customer service responses, for example?

bellediva Mon 16-Jun-14 19:36:51

Err if you have your employer named anywhere on your twitter account, then anything you say could construed as the official opinion of the firm. So yes sorry but you can get into trouble. I know this as my company provides comprehensive guidelines about social media use. So on my accounts im very careful what I say and never post anything I would be uncomfortable with saying out loud at work.

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 19:38:11

Wow, thanks for quick response. It's in my name, but with company name included - so if I worked for eg Tesco it would be @TescoDawn (not my name either!)

Mix of business related tweets, eg links to website, answering queries, and personal ones, eg pictures of sunsets and asking for recommendations for plumbers smile

spamm Mon 16-Jun-14 19:38:18

Sorry - I reread your message.

Wow - what a mess. Their social media policy is very misleading - on the one part they expect you to put the company name in you handle and on the other they say it belongs to you. The problem lies with their policy, not you.

I am not a legal expert, so cannot comment on that, but social media wise, I think you are ok, if you set up the account yourself, and not on behalf of the company.

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 19:39:38

Bellediva - it's not getting into trouble for what I've posted, but who owns the account that's at issue. It's very valuable to me in terms of future career plans, so I want to take it with me!

bellediva Mon 16-Jun-14 19:39:53

Sorry I realise I haven't fully understood....I read it as they asked you to change the account to remove the employer name...doh!

Sillylass79 Mon 16-Jun-14 19:40:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sillylass79 Mon 16-Jun-14 19:41:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

spamm Mon 16-Jun-14 19:42:02

I would also suggest you change all your settings so your account uses personal email and phone numbers, and not the company e-mail.

Greydog Mon 16-Jun-14 19:43:18

if you are the office union rep then I would suggest you contact a senior person at union headquarters to ask for further advice

bellediva Mon 16-Jun-14 19:43:49

What a bizarre policy they seem to have. If they haven't asked for other accounts back, then I'm not sure how they can get away with singling you out. You'd be able to argue that point at least.

FiveExclamations Mon 16-Jun-14 19:52:01

Tempus They are absolutely playing silly buggers, but as a safety net can you set up a new account and mass mail your contacts on your old one to let them know your new ID? I'm just thinking that even though you seem absolutely in the right you may reach a point where you want to pick your battles and let the Twitter account go.

I've just looked at my own Twitter Account and can't see an option to print a list of followers but perhaps you can screen capture them and print them off for future reference.

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 20:00:11

Sadly you can't mass mail people on Twitter. Switching followers would be impossible. Settings are absolutely in my name though.

I guess my question isn't really am I entitled to the account, as I can't see a court going against their own policy if they took it that far. It's more can I take them to tribunal if they sack me? Account is more valuable to me than minuscule redundancy payout and reference combined at this point tbh, so I'll definitely choose the sack over handing the account over.

Is it a private email address associated with the twitter account? And now the name doesn't include the company name? I don't understand in what way the account belongs to the company. If I started working for a company, I wouldn't expect them to claim ownership of my private account, or the other accounts which I admin on behalf of various local charities.

FiveExclamations Mon 16-Jun-14 20:11:30

Drat, sorry Tempus I had it in my head that you could.

In that case, as suggested up thread, I would change the account e-mail address to a personal one and the password to something very long and un-breakable which I would keep written down at home.

I would think, based on what you've said, that you'd win at Tribunal but you need to get some proper advice. Keep a copy of every communication and notes of every meeting, make sure you have a copy of your contract and all associated documents especially the Twitter policy and contact ACAS and the next person up in the Union hierarchy if you haven't already.

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 20:14:49

It is a private email address, yes - their argument will be that I built up the following on the strength of the company brand. I did set it up to use for working there, but completely off my own back, always in my name, and before my boss even knew what Twitter was I think. It dates from 2009, the social media policy is dated 2012.

In answer to pp about union rep, I am in contact with them, but the officer who knows my case is on holiday this week and I'm getting a bit anxious about it all, so wanted to check I'm not being ridiculously gung-ho! And I'm very grateful for all the responses smile

StandsOnGoldenSands Mon 16-Jun-14 20:18:13

Did you have the account before you joined the company ? I think that would be crucial to demonstrating whose audience it was.

StandsOnGoldenSands Mon 16-Jun-14 20:20:04

Sorry, cross post.
If company policy says you can take your account when you leave then it would be hard to see how they can refuse that.

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 20:21:46

Stands - no, first tweet was on my first day.

It feels very unfair that I'm effectively being penalised for doing this part of my job well sad They only want the account because I've built up such a big following through using it effectively on my own initiative - and often in my own time.

(And for being a bolshie working mother ...)

HermioneWeasley Mon 16-Jun-14 20:24:19

If the policy is as clear as you say, I don't see how they can argue that you have to change it back or are in breach of contract. I would send them a copy of their social media policy and express your confusion

TempusFuckit Mon 16-Jun-14 20:28:12

I've done exactly that Hermione, and they're still saying they'll get back to me. I suspect they'll come up with a new policy, or try to claim the one currently on the intranet is incorrect.

StandsOnGoldenSands Mon 16-Jun-14 20:46:31

Make sure you take dated screenshots and a download of the policy.

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