When fake news is spread which directly affects an employer or its workforce, one can go to court or adopt the appropriate disciplinary decisions, if it is a worker who spreads such news.
Fake news is having an impact on employment relations. Numerous companies cannot find an effective way of counteracting fake news published on various social networks or media –sometimes with a far-reaching reputational impact-.
In general, when faced with a fake news crisis, the tools which companies require must be found primarily in a protocol establishing in detail the procedure to be followed, in which the communication and the legal strategy must always go hand in hand.
In relation to employment, in the context of a labor dispute or of collective bargaining in which the truth may be distorted, it is essential to establish transparent communication channels and mechanisms to enable any of the parties –who are receiving fake news regarding the negotiations or the course of the dispute- to directly access the disputed information, thereby avoiding the risk that they only receive information from the source that distorts it.
Furthermore, when fake news is spread containing direct accusations against the company or some of its executives or employees –as well as the protocol to address a fake news crisis- the possibility exists to seek protection from the courts or to adopt the appropriate disciplinary decisions, if workers are involved.
This was, for example, the case of an airline pilot who, having been replaced as captain and appointed as first officer-, published several offensive comments on the internet about his employer, alleging, among other matters, certain security breaches by the employing airline, which proceeded to dismiss him due to a breach of contractual good faith. After the judgment at first instance, the case reached the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid, which, in its judgment of December 16, 2013, after explaining the limits of freedom of expression on which the employee relied, held the dismissal to be justified given the untruthfulness of the statements made. In relation to the publication of false information, the judgment pointed out: “Remember that the right to communicate true information, although it does not require absolute accuracy of what is stated, does require a reasonable verification of its sources”.
In conclusion, since no employer, labor union or worker is safe from a fake news crisis, the necessary measures must be adopted to address it and, if necessary, one must go to court to defend the interests of those affected by a fake news story.
Labor and Employment Department of Garrigues