Clubs urged to adopt social media policy22nd October, 2013 by Jenny Yu
The legal advisor to the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association (NGCAA) has said that litigation over social media has reached such an extent that it has become essential that golf clubs implement a social media policy.
That policy should include the option to expel members and dismiss staff if they make comments that breach privacy or damage the golf club’s reputation.
John Hassells added that the number of company cases going to court when either has been damaged is growing at an alarming rate.
“The biggest thing a golf club should do to protect itself is to implement a social media policy,” he said.
“In fact introduce two: one for employees and one for members because the relationship between club and member is very different to its relationship with its employees.
“If a member breaches a social media policy, a club will need to demonstrate it has a contractual standing to take action against the member, where that’s a warning or expulsion.
“If an employee breaches the club’s social media policy you need to be able to make sure you can show the employee was aware of the policy and understood the consequences of breaching it.”
Hassells stated that a tribunal had agreed that Apple was fair in dismissing an employee who had posted negative comments about its products on Facebook, because it had a clear social media policy. He added that similar rulings were made in favour of J D Wetherspoons and Everything Everywhere recently, while an employee for Club 24 won a case for dismissal because, believes Hassell, the company’s social media policy was not sufficiently specific.
“Social media is a powerful tool that can help you to engage with members and prospective members and it can drive traffic to your club both virtual and real,” he said.
“But there are many legal cases on social media, dealing with reputational harm, misuse of confidential information, libel intellectual property and database rights.
“The clear message is to have a good social media policy, where possible backed up with training. The policy needs to be clearly linked to the disciplinary procedure, and in relation to members, the club’s rules and membership contract.
“A good social media policy will remind employees and members that they are expected to protect confidential information and not say anything that harms, or could harm, the club’s reputation.
“Seeking to expel a member due to a misuse of social media will require very clear social media rules that tie in with the contract between the member and the club, otherwise, clubs may face breach of contract claims.”