Is it wise to ban camera phones from the office Christmas party?

Year Published: 2012

Digital mischief at the office Christmas party could result in miscreants getting both sacked and sued – for the sake of a few drunken prods of a mobile phone keypad.

The speed that an embarrassing or even unlawful photo can make it from phone to internet is breath-taking – digital-savvy types can take a photo and post it on a blog, website or social networking site for the world to see within seconds.

Christmas parties can be full of silly, stupid or downright offensive little acts carried out by people whose judgment is severely impaired – by the effects of too many pints of lager or glasses of Lambrusco. Sticking a mobile phone camera lens under a toilet door, up a skirt, into the face of somebody caught snogging or engaging in any one of a million other revelrous acts – then sharing the picture with anybody, by any means – could be actionable on the grounds of anything from breach of European privacy laws, through to transmission of pornographic material, or even defamation.

The problem is that unless the subject or subjects of the photo give their permission, then it potentially could be a sack-able and sue-able act. Under the European Convention of Human Rights, everybody has the right to respect for their private life, therefore employees should seek permission from each individual before posting their photo on a website or blog – otherwise it could give rise to problems for staff and employer.

If the pictures are taken by a digital camera with no transmission capability, then the photographer and perpetrator each have time to reflect before the picture finds its way to somewhere it shouldn’t and there is less chance of the photo going ‘viral’.

How does this affect employers?

Employers need to advise employees of the expected levels of behaviour at the Christmas party and what will happen as a consequence of breaches of this behaviour. Remind employees about the disciplinary and grievance policy, bullying and harassment policy along with the IT and Social Media policy.

Employers need to deal with disciplinary offences and grievances raised quickly and fairly on the return to the office.

For further information please contact our Employment team.

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