1. Can the employer restrict the employee’s use of Internet and social media during working hours?
An explicit regulation does not exist in Austria. The use of emails or the Internet during working hours for non-work related purposes as well as the control of Internet use by the employee is regulated in the norms of Austria´s Labour Law, Copyright Law and Data Protection Law, respectively. The employer cannot prohibit the use of Internet and social media on private devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops. But he can prohibit the private use of Internet and social media on devices belonging to the company. Unless stated otherwise in an employment contract, a moderate private use of the internet on a company PC is permitted. The private use of smartphones or tablets during work cannot be prohibited, but there are a few restrictions nonetheless. At any rate, the job performance must not be affected.
2. Employee’s use of social media to disparage the employer or divulge confidential information
a) Divulge confidential information:
Due to the employee´s duty of loyalty he is sworn to secrecy. Whoever betrays trade secrets risks his job.
b) Disparage the employer:
The Austrian High Court has ruled in its decision from May 27th 2013 that even a works council member can be dismissed immediately for leaving negative comments on social networks. However, the dismissal requires the approval of the Labour court.
To summarize, employers need to take caution before posting statements on social networks. Even colleagues who comment affirmatively on insults on Facebook must count on consequences pertaining to Labour law.