Corporate Center

Social Media Etiquette: Post responsibly

Rebecca Simbillo, a disgruntled managerial employee and the Finance and Accounting Manager and Treasurer of Interadent Zahntechnik Philippines, Inc. (Interadent), took to Facebook to vent her frustrations at the workplace.

“Sana maisip din nila na ang kompanya kailangan ng mga taong di tulad nila, nagtatrabaho at di puro #$,*% ang pinaggagagawa, na kapag super demotivated na yung tao nayun baka iwan narin nya ang kawawang kumpanya na pinagpepyestahan ng mga b_i_r_. Wala na ngang credibility wala pang conscience, portraying so respectable and so religious pa. Hay naku talaga, nakakasuka, puro nalang animus lucrandi ang laman ng isip.”

Because of her Facebook rant, Interadent sent her a notice requiring her to explain her Facebook post, which, the company claimed, disclosed sensitive and confidential information. When Ms. Simbillo failed to appear during the company’s disciplinary hearing and to submit an explanation, Interadent suspended her and eventually terminated her employment due to loss of trust and confidence.

In INTERADENT ZAHNTECHNIK PHILIPPINES, INC. V. REBECCA SIMBILLO (G.R. No. 207315, November 23, 2016), the Supreme Court held that Ms. Simbillo’s dismissal was illegal, as the Facebook post, which the company used as a basis for her suspension and dismissal, did not contain any corporate records or confidential information.

While the law allows loss of trust as a basis for dismissing a managerial employee, the Supreme Court ruled that this loss of trust and confidence must be based on a willful breach of trust. That is, on an act that is done intentionally, knowingly, purposely, and without justifiable excuse. In this case, Ms. Simbillo’s Facebook post did not divulge any information that the Supreme Court considered as corporate records or confidential information. At worst, the court considered Ms. Simbillo to have only acted “carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently” insofar as her Facebook post was concerned and the post on its own was not sufficient to establish the loss of trust and confidence that would justify the termination of her employment.

What is clear from this case, however, is that a Facebook post, especially work-related ones, can be used as a basis for disciplinary action, or worse, a dismissal. While social media misconduct is a relatively new concept in Philippine jurisprudence, we can expect to see more of it in relation to employee discipline and dismissal, given the increased use (and misuse) of social media, both for personal and for business purposes.