Starbucks | TikToks at work are leading to sackings, do we need revised social media rules?

TikToks at work are leading to sackings, do we need revised social media rules?

A Starbucks worker says he was sacked after making TikTok videos about working for the company – claims which have put the issue of social media policies under the spotlight once again.

As reported by the Daily Dot, TikToker user @heyimozzy shared a video in which he claimed the coffee shop chain had told him: “Due to the nature of your TikToks we have decided to separate you from the company”.

According to the publication, previous videos of his included one “jokingly complaining about customers ordering frappuccinos during a busy period”, while another addressed the importance of prioritising mental health over work.

In a comment on the video, he said another barista told bosses about his TikTok activity, the Daily Dot said.

Starbucks has, so far, not responded to requests for comment on the video. But despite the sacking claims being unconfirmed, the video has sparked outrage among users in the comments, with several highlighting the fact that many Starbucks employees share videos on social media. Several others questioned why his posts would be a reason to fire him.

Social media pitfalls

Whether the TikTok user’s claims are true or not, there is a precedent for workers losing their jobs over social media posts. Earlier this month, a worker in America claimed he was sacked after bosses found his TikTok videos which documented him moving into his work cubicle, because he said he wasn’t earning enough money to afford an apartment.

As was reported on by the Independent, Simon Jackson’s situation went viral after he posted a video in which he announced his plans to live in his office cubicle in a video as “a matter of protest”.

In the video, Jackson said: “I’m moving from my apartment into my cubicle at work. They do not pay me enough to do both, so, as a matter of protest, I am just going to live at my job,” Jackson said, adding: “We’ll see how long I can get away with this.”

The viral clip shows Jackson unpacking bags of belongings and turning his tiny office cubicle into a small living space, complete with a sleeping bag.

At the time the videos were filmed, only a handful of people were working from the office due to the pandemic, Jackson claimed, which allowed his plans to go largely unnoticed for several days.

However, despite his new found viral fame and tens of millions of views, Jackson later revealed that after four days of living in his office, bosses found out about his protest and sacked him.

‘Exercise caution when using personal social media accounts’

Online platforms including the likes of Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have grown in popularity over the years therefore it is likely that employees will use some social media accounts for leisure.

However, Katie Johnston, Senior Associate at law firm Lewis Silkin previously spoke exclusively to HR Grapevine about why staff members should “exercise caution” when using personal social media accounts.

Johnston explained: “They may find themselves subject to disciplinary proceedings or even dismissed from their employment if their employer construes a post as inappropriate and/or that it poses a risk to the employer’s reputation.

“This is regardless of whether a post relates to their employer, or whether it was posted during their working hours.

The legal expert added: “Cases will be assessed by the Employment Tribunal on a case-by-case basis, however, employers are more likely to succeed in establishing that the dismissal was lawful where the employee’s (albeit personal) account is accessible by the public and where there is a link to the employer, for example, where the employer’s name is mentioned, the employee is wearing their work uniform or they have work colleagues as connections."

Social media policies at work

To prevent problems from occurring, Johnston said that employers should have “a robust and up-to-date social media policy in place”.

She explained: “[This should set] out clear parameters for staff use of social media, including personal use outside of work, and ideally examples of where posts may cross the line so there can be no doubt.

“The policy should state that misuse of social media by staff may amount to gross misconduct, which could lead to immediate dismissal,” Johnston concluded.


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