In Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd ET/2400978/2016 the employment tribunal has held that an employer fairly dismissed an employee upon discovering that he had posted derogatory comments about his employer and his colleagues some years previously.
He commenced employment with Together Housing Association Ltd (‘Together’) as an apprentice in 1987. In 2014, following promotion to lead gas engineer he began managing a team of engineers. In November 2015, Creighton was suspended pending investigations following a complaint that he was bullying one of his colleagues. Together discovered that Creighton had posted derogatory comments on his ‘open’ personal Twitter account regarding his colleague and his employer and it instigated disciplinary proceedings against him for the comments and the alleged bullying.
Creighton apologised and explained that when he posted the comments on Twitter some two or three years ago he thought that his Tweets were private. Citing his 30 years service he asked to be treated sympathetically. One such comment which he sent to two colleagues stated: ‘just carry on and pick up your wage, this place is fucked. It’s full of absolute bell ends who ain’t got any balls’.
Together concluded that there was insufficient evidence to dismiss Creighton for the alleged bullying but dismissed him for gross misconduct based on the contents of the Tweets. His appeal was unsuccessful. Under Together’s disciplinary policy it cited ‘defaming the organisation or damaging its reputation by use of social media’ as an example of gross misconduct.
Creighton brought an unsuccessful claim for unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal. The tribunal concluded that Together had followed a fair process in relation to Creighton’s dismissal in that it had conducting a reasonable investigation, given Creighton an opportunity to explain himself following the provision of evidence and allowed him to appeal.
This demonstrates that even if the conduct is historic, an employer may still be able to rely upon it in dismissing an employee. It is becoming increasingly important with the rise of the digital age to be careful what can be seen on social media and to consider the effect that any posts may have.
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