LinkedIn row raises interesting questions

A ferocious row erupted last week when a solicitor sent a message to a human rights barrister, complimenting her on her LinkedIn photo.

Charlotte Proudman took exception to the “unacceptable” remarks from Alexander Carter-Silk and posted their interaction on Twitter, arguing that comments on a woman’s appearance had no place on a professional networking site.

Now the pair have both come in for intense criticism. He has been accused of sexism and she of overreacting.

Both could face professional consequences following the exchange, Ms Proudman has referred the matter to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) but has herself been told she could lose work as a result of the way she handled the situation.

On Twitter, opinions are similarly divided with the parties being alternately branded “feminazi” and “misogynist”.

Alice Jones, a journalist at the Independent, summarised the war of words which was raging.

“Perhaps Proudman should have been more circumspect in sharing the identity of her sexist correspondent: a private rebuke and a public sharing of his words, without a picture, would have made the same point,” she said in her Saturday column.

“But whatever Carter-Silk’s intentions, boiling a woman’s CV down to her pretty picture is an undermining act, one in a long, unedifying chain that links to fewer women in positions of responsibility and unequal pay.”

One element of the row which has been somewhat overlooked is whether the actions of Ms Proudman or Mr Carter-Silk could be in breach of their respective firms’ social media policies.

Most companies today – particularly in the legal profession – are likely to have rigorous rules in place about what staff can say on sites including LinkedIn and Twitter.

Given the extraordinary amount of adverse publicity which will have been generated following last week’s events, it remains to be seen if the law firms will take any formal disciplinary action.  But a review of social media policies may be timely for your organisation and our employment department can assist you in that process: contact andrewfirman@cartercamerons.com