The Employment Appeal Tribunal has heard the first appeal involving the dismissal of an employee for comments published on his personal Twitter page.
In Game Limited Retail v Laws, Mr Laws was dismissed for tweeting offensive posts despite the fact that they were not work related. He issued a claim in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal. The Tribunal held that his dismissal was unfair because the account was a personal not work related account and the purpose of his account was to communicate outside work not as part of his role, because he had tweeted during his personal time and the claimant provided explanation for some of the tweets. The employer’s decision to dismiss did not fall within the band of reasonable responses. The Tribunal did however conclude that the employee had contributed 40% to his dismissal.
Game Retail Limited appealed. The EAT allowed the appeal. It held that the Tribunal had substituted its view opposed to the employer’s view and that the Tribunal had failed to consider the public nature of the social media site. Rather unhelpfully, no consideration or guidelines were given to apply in social media cases. The case was remitted to a new Tribunal.
Social media is widely used and it remains a problem for employers as it is difficult to manage employees in this area, particularly where comments are posted outside of work. This is an area that is likely to see significant case law in the future. To date, a lot of cases have been unreported but we hope that this will change. Watch this space and of course this blog.