Law firm McDowell Purcell has urged companies to clamp down on cyberbullying in the workplace and has warned that unlimited access to Facebook and Twitter by employees carries a high risk of bullying and harassment.
In a paper, Cyber-bullying in the workplace remedies for Employees, the law firm points out that while email and internet access carry obvious benefits for firms, unrestricted access exposes firms to claims for personal injury, breach of duty, discrimination, defamation proceedings, IT security violations and lost productivity.
Cyberbullying has become a public issue in Ireland recently because of the high-profile suicides of teenagers and a senior-ranking politician where online harassment has been viewed as a contributing factor.
But according to McDowell Purcell, cyberbullying is becoming more common in the workplace, as smartphones and communications technologies advance.
“While cyberbullying is typically associated with children and teenagers, it is becoming an increasing problem for professionals in the workplace,” the paper’s author Julie O’Neill, explained.
“Firms need to ensure that they have robust procedures, including an electronic communications policy in place, to mitigate against the risk of legal claims.”
She urges firms to have in place an IT policy that governs data protection legislation and sets out ground rules for acceptable usage.
Gaps in Irish law
Last week, Ireland’s Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said there were gaps in the law to deal with social media issues and said the Communications Regulation Act 2007 did not extend to social media.
While there is no single law to deal with cyberbullying, affected employees can take a number of routes to seek justice, including a personal injury claim, a defamation action or a case under the Employment Equality Act.