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Can you be fired for “blue-ticking” your boss’ WhatsApp messages?

In the old days, it was a common thing for those in the corporate world to say that a Blackberry could be both a blessing and a curse. While providing connectivity and push email notifications, the flip-side was that you were always on-call.

But with the development of mobile technology and apps over the years, perpetual connectivity is now a bare minimum for most of us. WhatsApp, in particular, has become the default mode of communication for many, with some even preferring the more informal—and often more instantaneous—nature of the platform over traditional email.

Now, a report has surfaced that claims that a Malaysian employee was terminated after reading, and ignoring, messages on WhatsApp from his company. Of course, most of us have used WhatsApp to communicate with colleagues, and it’s entirely common to have WhatsApp groups within teams to better facilitate group projects.

The issue stemmed from the “blue-tick” feature on WhatsApp—the cause of millions of arguments over the years, I’m sure—which indicates that a message has been read by the receipient.

However, it’s worth noting that the blue-tick was not the only “offence” committed by the employee in the report. In this case, there was a string of reasons, mainly pertaining to his quality of work and work performance. The employee was also given an extension to his probationary period to prove himself, although that was terminated.

The issue has reached the public eye due to a lawsuit on the employee’s part, however. The court ruled that the employee was dismissed for proper reasons, and the termination was lawful.

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Admissible in court

It’s interesting that the issue of WhatsApp messages (and if you read them) has now become a legal issue. According to reports, messages over the platform have been ruled by the High Court to be admissible as evidence in legal cases, provided certain requirements are met.

Similarly to emails, WhatsApp provides a black-and-white record of your conversations, and consequently should be treated as official correspondence—especially if for work purposes.

However, you can opt to turn off your WhatsApp “read” receipts, although this means that you won’t be able to know if others have read your messages either. To do so, head over to Settings > Account > Privacy > Read receipts. You can also turn off your “Last seen” to further protect your privacy.

And just to clear things up, a single tick means that your message has been sent, while a double tick means that the message has been received (but not necessarily read). And a blue tick means that a message has been read.