Does an employee harm a company's reputation? 4 nuances that should be known to the employer were revealed by the lawyer of Skliarenko, Sydorenko & Partners

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Does an employee harm a company's reputation? 4 nuances that should be known to the employer were revealed by the lawyer of Skliarenko, Sydorenko & Partners

Is it possible to punish an employee for harming the reputation of the company? What responsibility does the employee bear for disseminating negative reviews about work, for example, on social networks?

The lawyer of Skliarenko, Sydorenko & Partners Attorneys at law Tetiana Borysenko, gave the detailed answer to these questions to The Point publication of the national portal

- Most often, problems between a dissatisfied employee and an employer arise upon dismissal. The employee, who was offended by the head, is trying to take revenge on the company. In addition, in the era of information technology, there are many options for harming the business reputation: writing letters to regulatory authorities about violations of the law, publishing negative reviews and comments on social networks, sending letters with negative information about the employer to his clients.

It is, of course, impossible to prohibit an employee from expressing his negative attitude towards an employer. After all, the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees everyone the right to freedom of thought and speech, to free expression of their views and beliefs. Everyone has the right to freely disseminate information orally, in writing or in any other way - at his own discretion (Article 34). At the same time, there are exceptions to this rule, and more precisely - cases that are not actually covered by freedom of speech - this is the dissemination of false information that harms the business reputation of the company.

In this regard, it is necessary to take into account several aspects.

Firstly, in the vast majority of cases, the solution to the problem needs to be sought outside of labor law. Indeed, according to Art. 130 of the Code of Labor Laws of Ukraine, workers are liable for damage caused to the company as a result of violation of their duties. In other words, if there were no complaints about the quality of the employee’s work (within the scope of duties defined by the job description), then talking about responsibility in this case would be incorrect. Therefore, the protection of the rights of the employer will be carried out in accordance with the general rules of the Civil Code of Ukraine governing compensation for harm caused to the business reputation of a legal entity (in particular, see article 22; paragraph 4 of part 2 of article 23, article 94, article 201 ; p. 2 h. 2 article 258, article 1166, article 1167 of the Civil Code).

Secondly, the degradation of the business reputation of a company occurs in the form of the dissemination of false, inaccurate or incomplete information that discredits the way it conducts or the business results of the company, and therefore the value of its intangible assets decreases. In this case, a general means of protecting the rights of a company is a claim for compensation for property and (or) moral (non-property) harm. A special remedy is also the requirement to refute false information. In court, such requirements are presented directly to the author, as well as to the person who disseminated the relevant information (online publications, social network administrator, TV channel, print edition, where the information was actually made public).

However, in practice, companies encounter difficulties in the process of proving the fact of humiliation of business reputation, identifying those responsible for violations, determining the amount of moral harm, proving a causal relationship between the actions of specific individuals and the presence of moral harm.

Thirdly, it is necessary to distinguish between inaccurate information and value judgments, for the expression of which no one can be held accountable (see article 30 of the Law “On Information”).

Considered unreliable information that is not true or false is stated, that is, contains information about events and phenomena, which did not exist, or have existed, but the information about them are untrue (partial or distorted).

Value judgments, with the exception of defamation, are statements that do not contain evidence, criticism, an assessment of actions, and statements that cannot be interpreted as containing factual data, in particular, given the nature of the use of linguistic-stylistic means (the use of hyperbole, allegories, satires). Value judgments are not subject to refutation and proof of their veracity. In other words, if an employee wrote on the social network that he considers his employer to be a villain, such an expression will be regarded by the court as a value judgment that cannot be proved.

Fourth, not all forms of defamation (real or perceived) can be regarded as harm to business reputation. So, sending letters and applications to various institutions, organizations, state bodies and local authorities in order to verify the illegal (according to the applicant) activities by the competent authorities is the exercise by a person of constitutional law provided for in article 40 of the Constitution (the right to send appeals), and not distribution false information. The Civil Court of Cassation of the Supreme Court in case No. 207 /1161 /17 formed this position.

That is, if an employee in his complaint to the supervisory authority indicates that the company violates the law, then this appeal, regardless of the results of the audit, can in no way harm the business reputation of the business.

In any case, the employees themselves must also protect their reputation. Do not spread false information about the employer, especially for revenge when emotions dominate the mind. If there has been a violation of your personal or labor rights, it is better to go to court. In addition, the decision made in the name of Ukraine in your favor will have a significantly greater impact on the reputation of the company than the comments of the offended employee on social networks.

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