Category Archives: Communication Act

Facebook’s revenge

article-3-August-nlFacebook, Twitter and other social network sites are part of many people’s lives and serve as a useful vehicle for sharing one’s personal views. However, these sites may may have unfortunate ramifications.

Let’s be honest, ranting in public about your boss has never been seen as a smart career move. It is one thing to speak your heart out about your boss to a friend over a drink, but for some reason or another, employees tend to lose their inhibitions when there is a computer screen between them and the world out there.

What happens when an employee makes use of a social network to air his/her views or to say nasty things about his/her employer?

Courts have held that it is fair for an employer to dismiss an employee for posting intentionally offensive statements about his/her employer on a social networking website, like Facebook.

In Sedick & another v Krisray (Pty) Ltd [2011] 8 BALR 879 (CCMA), employees were dismissed for bringing the company’s name into disrepute by publishing derogatory comments about the owner of the company on Facebook. The employees claimed that the employer breached their right to privacy by accessing their profiles on Facebook.

What happened?

The employees, De Reuck and Sedick, worked for a fashion accessories company. The company’s Marketing Manager logged onto her Facebook account and navigated to De Reuck’s Facebook page because she wanted to send her a friend request. She was able to see everything on the employee’s Facebook wall without being given access as a friend. She came across numerous posts by Sedick and other employees where they exchanged several snide remarks, which included the following: “Trust me, no one can put up with so much shit when the f*cking kids join the company!”; “From so-called ‘professionalism 2 dumb brats running a mickey mouse business”; “… today was hectic with Frankenstein”; “What an idiot”; “A very ugly man with a dark soul”.

The right to privacy?

The Commissioner noted that, in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act 70 of 2002, section 4(1), “Any person … may intercept any communication if he or she is a party to the communication, unless such communication is intercepted by such person for purposes of committing an offence”.

According to the Commissioner, the internet is a public domain and Facebook users have the option to restrict access to their profiles as well as the information that they publish. Because of the employees’ failure to make use of the privacy option, they had abandoned their right to privacy and the protection of the abovementioned act.

Fair dismissal?

The employees argued that they had not damaged the company’s reputation because they did not directly refer to the company or anyone who managed it. The Marketing Manager and the Arbitrator agreed that the references to the company and its management were obvious, because the people who were reading the comments would probably have known what and whom they were about.

The Commissioner held that, considering what was written, where the comments were posted, to whom they were directed and by whom they were made, the comments brought the employer’s good name into disrepute with persons both inside and outside the organisation.

The Commissioner confirmed that a dismissal under such circumstances could be fair if the employer follows the correct procedures and if the evidence used against the employee has not been illegally obtained in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act.

The moral of the story is: if you had a really rotten day at the office and are about to post some nasty comments about Mr or Mrs Boss, hold on a second. Do not write under the influence of alcohol, anger or frustration, as this sharing might get you fired.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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Facebook se wraak

article-3-August-nlFacebook, Twitter en ander sosiale netwerke vorm deel van ons alledaagse lewe en dien as ‘n nuttige medium om persoonlike menings met ander te deel. Hierdie netwerke kan egter ongelukkige vertakkings hê.

Kom ons wees nou eerlik: om jou baas in die openbaar sleg te sê, was nog nooit `n slim loopbaanbesluit nie. Dis een ding om jou baas met `n vriend of kollega oor `n glasie wyn te bespreek, maar om een of ander rede bestaan daar `n geneigdheid onder werknemers om alle inhibisies en loopbaandrome  te vergeet wanneer daar ‘n rekenaarskerm geplaas word  tussen werkfrustrasies  en die wêreld daarbuite.

Wat gebeur wanneer ‘n werknemer  gebruik maak van ‘n sosiale netwerk, soos dié van Facebook, om sy mening te lug of selfs nare dinge te sê oor sy of haar werkgewer?

Howe het beslis dat dit billik is om ‘n werknemer te ontslaan weens die negatiewe stellings wat hulle op sosiale netwerke oor hul werkgewer uitblaker.

In Sedick & ‘n ander v  Krisray (Pty) Ltd [2011] 8 BALR 879 (KVBA), is werknemers ontslaan weens neerhalende kommentaar wat hul op Facebook gepubliseer het oor die eienaar van die maatskappy. Die werknemers het, sonder enige klaarblyklike sukses, beweer dat hul reg op privaatheid hierdeur in gedrang gebring word.

Wat het gebeur?

Die werknemers, De Reuck en Sedick, was werksaam by `n modebykomstighede-maatskappy. Die maatskappy se bemarkingsbestuurder het aangeteken op haar Facebook-rekening en De Reuck se Facebook-blad besoek om aan haar `n vriendversoek te stuur. De Reuck se Facebook-blad het gewemel van boodskappe van Sedick en ander werknemers, waarin hulle vryelik snedige aanmerkings verruil het oor die eienaar van die maatskappy. Aanmerkings het ingesluit: “Glo my, niemand kan sit met so baie k*k vandat die f*king kinders by die maatskappy aangesluit het nie!”; ” … vandag was dol met Frankenstein “; ” Wat ‘n idioot “,” ‘n Baie lelike man met ‘n donker siel “.

Die reg op privaatheid?

Die Voorsittende Beampte het opgemerk dat kragtens Artikel 4(1) van die Wet op die Reëling van Onderskepping van Kommunikasies en Verstrekking van Kommunikasie-verwante Inligting, enigiemand enige kommunikasie mag onderskep indien hy of sy ’n party is by die kommunikasie, tensy sodanige kommunikasie onderskep word vir die doel om ’n misdryf te pleeg.

Volgens die Voorsittende Beampte moet die internet beskou word as openbare domein en Facebook-gebruikers het die opsie om toegang tot hulle profiele sowel as die inligting wat hulle publiseer, te beperk. Juis weens die werknemers se nalate of versuim om die privaatheid-opsie te gebruik, het hulle afstand gedoen van hul reg tot privaatheid.

Billike ontslag?

Die werknemers het aangevoer dat hulle nie direk verwys het na die maatskappy of `n spesifieke persoon werksaam by die maatskappy nie en dus ontken dat hul die maatskappy se reputasie enige skade berokken het. Die Voorsittende Beampte het nie met hierdie argument saamgestem nie aangesien dit volgens hom voor die hand liggend was dat die mense wat die boodskappe lees bewus sou wees na wie die werknemers verwys.

Met inagneming van wat geskryf is, waar die kommentaar geplaas is, aan wie die kommentaar  gerig was, aan wie dit beskikbaar was en deur wie dit geplaas is, het die Voorsittende Beampte beslis dat hierdie kommentaar wél die werkgewer se goeie naam en reputasie in die gedrang gebring het by sowel persone binne as buite die maatskappy.

Die Voorsittende Beampte het bevestig dat ontslag wel onder hierdie omstandighede regverdig kan word, met dien verstande dat die werkgewer die regte prosedure volg en dat die getuienis in hierdie verband nie onwettig verkry is nie.

Dus, indien jy `n baie slegte dag by die kantoor gehad het, skep eers asem. Moenie onder die invloed van drank, woede of frustrasie negatiewe kommentaar plaas oor mnr. of mev. Baas nie.

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.

Kliek hier om die volledige vrywaring te sien

Durbanse Hooggeregshof “like” betekening op Facebook

article4Facebook kan beskryf word as `n sosiale netwerk wat mense reg oor die wêreld toelaat om oor en weer met vriende, familie, kennisse, kollegas, en somtyds ook vreemdelinge te kommunikeer. Dié sosiale netwerk spog tans met meer as 9 biljoen gebruikers, waarvan 900 miljoen ten minste een keer `n maand hul rekening opdateer.

Alhoewel daar kritiek bestaan dat  Suid-Afrikaanse howe oor die algemeen skepties en somtyds traag is om ontwikkelinge van hierdie soort in oorweging te neem, is groot opspraak verwek toe Regter Ester Steyn in die Durbanse Hooggeregshof  betekening van `n hofkennisgewing deur middel van Facebook verwelkom het.

Hierdie dringende ex parte uitspraak volg nadat die verweerder se prokureur van rekord in die  aangeleentheid van CMC Woodworking Machinery (Pty) Ltd vs Pieter Odendaal Kitchens onttrek het en versuim het om `n alternatiewe adres, waar kennisgewing op die teenpartye beteken kon word, te verskaf. In hierdie stadium van die proses is pleitstukke reeds aan beide kante geruil en was die  partye afwagtend van `n beskikbare hofdatum.  Onnodig om te sê, was die eiser se prokureurs in `n  posisie geplaas waar hulle geen alternatiewe adres gehad het om die hofdokumente op die verweerder te beteken nie. Alle daaropvolgende pogings om  die verweerder ooreenkomstig die hofreëls te kontak, was onsuksesvol. Gevolglik het die eiser (applikant) `n dringende aansoek gebring vir vervangende betekening op die verweerder deur die plasing van `n persoonlike boodskap op sy Facebookblad.

In die lig van dié aansoek het Regter Steyn groot klem geplaas op die onlangse wysiging van die Eenvormige Hofreëls en meer spesifiek Reël 4A waarin bepalings van die Electronic Communications and Transaction Act 25 of 2005 geïnkorporeer is. Hierdie reël  maak dit moontlik vir litigante om hofdokumente te beteken per e-pos of faksimilee en is dit dan spesifiek ingevoer om te verseker dat die hofprosesse wel onder die betrokke party se aandag gebring word.

Die reëls maak verder voorsiening vir die toepaslike proses wat gevolg  moet word in gevalle waar betekening nie in die gewone gang van sake suksesvol uitgevoer kan word nie. Hierdie proses staan bekend as vervangende betekening. Die party wat poog om die hofdokumente te beteken moet aansoek om vervangende betekening by die hof doen en slegs as die hof oortuig is dat die betrokke metode van betekening voldoende sal wees en dat die tradisionele metodes van betekening nie effektief was nie, sal die hof toestemming verleen vir die spesifieke metode van betekening.

Die regters in die hof sal die volgende faktore in ag neem:

  • Aard van die eis
  • Gronde waarop die eis gebaseer is
  • Metodes van betekening reeds gebruik
  • Laaste adres van die verweerder
  • Dat die applikant die normale metodes van betekening probeer het, wat onsuksesvol was

Regter Steyn het bevind dat hoewel Facebook primêr as ’n sosiale netwerk dien, dit geregverdig is om af te lei dat dit ook ander nuttige funksies dien, soos bv. om individue op te spoor asook om noodsaaklike inligting te bekom.  Sy het beklemtoon dat elke aansoek volgens  meriete beoordeel moet word en volgens die aard van die dokument wat op die betrokke party bedien moet word.

Die Durbanse Hooggeregshof  het gevolglik verlof verleen aan die applikant om vervangende betekening met `n persoonlike Facebook-boodskap te doen.  Verder, om regsekerheid te bevorder, is die applikant gelas om die betrokke kennisgewing ook in `n plaaslike koerant te adverteer, sou die verweerder om die een of ander rede nie toegang tot enige elektroniese kommunikasietoestelle hê nie.

Betekening deur `n sosiale netwerkwebtuiste soos dié van Facebook, het verskeie voordele. Dit is algemeen bekend dat mense eerder hul Facebook-boodskappe sal lees as om die koerant te lees. ‘n Kennisgewing via Facebook is daarom meer gerig en sal daarom meer waarskynlik onder ‘n persoon se aandag kom as ‘n advertensie in ‘n koerant se regskennisgewings. Hierdie bevel word allerweë beskryf as ‘n pioniersuitspraak en Facebook-gebruikers in Suid-Afrika kan met genoegdoening “like” kliek.

NOTA AAN PROKUREURS:
Kyk- CMC Woodworking Machinery (Pty) Ltd v Pieter Odendaal Kitchens (6846/2006) [2012] ZAKZDHC 44; 2012 (5) SA 604 (KZD) (3 August 2012)

Hierdie is ‘n algemene inligtingstuk en moet gevolglik nie as regs- of ander professionele advies benut word nie. Geen aanspreeklikheid kan aanvaar word vir enige foute of weglatings of enige skade of verlies wat volg uit die gebruik van enige inligting hierin vervat nie. Kontak altyd u regsadviseur vir spesifieke en toegepaste advies.

Durban High Court “like” service via Facebook

article4Facebook can be described as a social network that provides people with the opportunity to connect and communicate with friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, and even strangers, around the world. The success and popularity of this social network is not in question when looking at their more than 9 billion users, of which 900 million check or update their account at least once a month.

Despite the general  criticism against  South African courts for being skeptical and sometimes slow to accommodate developments of this kind, widespread controversy occurred when a Durban High Court judge, Judge Ester Steyn, welcomed the service of a court process on the defendant`s Facebook social network page.

This urgent ex parte judgment followed after the defendant’s attorney of record withdrew  in the matter of CMC Woodworking Machinery (Pty) Ltd vs Pieter Odendaal Kitchens and failed  to provide the plaintiff`s attorneys with an alternative address where notice to the counter parties could be served.  At this stage of the process, pleadings had already been  exchanged on both sides and the parties awaited the allocation of a trial date. Needless to say, the plaintiff`s attorneys were  in the position where they had no alternative address to serve the court documents on the defendant.  All subsequent attempts to contact the defendant in accordance with the rules of court, proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the plaintiff (applicant) brought an urgent application for substituted service on the defendant`s personal Facebook page.

In view of  the application, Judge Steyn placed a great deal of emphasis on the recent amendment to the Uniform Court Rules, and more specifically Rule 4A in which provisions of the Electronic Communication Act 25 of 2005 were incorporated. This rule allows litigants to serve court documents by e-mail or fax and was specifically created to ensure that the court processes are brought to the attention of the relevant party.

Furthermore, these rules make provision for the appropriate  procedure to be followed in the event of unsuccessful service in the ordinary course of business. This process is called substituted service. The party who seeks to serve the court document must apply to the court for substituted service and only after  the court is satisfied that the particular method of service will be adequate and that the traditional  methods of service were not  effective, will a court grant leave for this type of service.

The judges in the courts will take the following into consideration:

  • Nature and extent of the claim
  • Grounds upon which the claim is based
  • Grounds upon which the court has jurisdiction
  • Method of service
  • Last known location
  • That the applicant has tried the usual methods and has tried to locate the respondent without success

Although Facebook is primarily used as a social network, according to Judge Steyn it is fair  to draw  the conclusion that this particular network is used for other useful functions such as tracking individuals as well as to obtain essential information.  Judge Steyn emphasized that each application must be decided on its own merits and on the type of document that needs to be served on the party concerned.

Leave was accordingly granted to the applicant for substituted service using a personal Facebook message. In addition, to promote legal certainty, the judge ordered that the notice be published in a local newspaper should the defendant, for some reason, not have access to any electronic communication devices.

Service using a social media website like Facebook has a number of advantages. Many Facebook users probably spend more time on Facebook than reading a newspaper. A notification via Facebook is therefore more targeted and would be more likely to reach a person’s attention than an ad in the legal classifieds.This order is widely described as a ground-breaking judgment in South-Africa, and Facebook users can click  “like” with satisfaction.

NOTE TO ATTORNEYS:
See- CMC Woodworking Machinery (Pty) Ltd v Pieter Odendaal Kitchens (6846/2006) [2012] ZAKZDHC 44; 2012 (5) SA 604 (KZD) (3 August 2012)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.

Brave new world: Virtual boardrooms in cyberspace

G&T_Virtual“O Wonder!…O Brave New World” (Shakespeare) 

One of the innovations brought in by our “new” Companies Act is that company meetings may now be held via electronic communication, opening the door for companies to use cyber services such as email, online messaging, voice and video conferencing (easy with services like Skype, SightSpeed, iChat etc) to replace traditional “face-to-face all in one place” boardroom meetings.

The result – directors and shareholders in different cities and countries around the world no longer have to travel to attend meetings – they can legally be “held” online from your various locations.   Not only does this offer up huge savings in time and travel costs, but it means that urgent meetings can (subject to notice and other requirements as below) be held at short notice, and decisions taken and recorded online.

Even if a ‘meeting’ (physical or online) isn’t actually held, decisions can be “adopted by written consent of a majority of the directors” via electronic communication (subject, again, to notice and other requirements).

Follow the formal requirements 

  1. Make sure that the Companies Act’s requirements in regard to proper notice, conduct and minuting of meetings are complied with,
  2. Comply with the requirements of ECTA (the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act) in regard to identification of originator, accessibility, storage, retrieval etc,
  3. Electronic meetings can be held unless your MOI (Memorandum of Incorporation) specifically provides otherwise, but if you want to avoid any uncertainty draw your MOI to allow them in clear terms,
  4. The “electronic communication facility” employed must “ordinarily [enable] all persons participating in that meeting to communicate concurrently with each other without an intermediary, and to participate effectively in the meeting” – in which event they are all as “present” at the meeting as if they were physically all in one location.

Shareholders 

Shareholders’ meetings can likewise take place via electronic communication subject to similar requirements to those applying to board meetings.  In fact meetings of public company shareholders “must be reasonably accessible within the Republic for electronic participation by shareholders… irrespective of whether the meeting is held in the Republic or elsewhere”.

© DotNews, 2005-2013. This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.