Employee Dismissal for Misuse of Social Media: Historic Posts Can Come Back to Bite

Social Media, Employment Law, The Wilkes Partnership. Birmingham, Solihull

To many people, social media is a platform where one can express his or her views freely, no matter how suitable or derogatory, with no backlash expected.

However, in the case of Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd ET/2400978/2016 the Employment Tribunal decided that Mr Creighton was fairly dismissed upon Together Housing discovering that Mr Creighton had posted derogatory comments about his colleagues and employer on social media a number of years previously.

Sarah Begley of The Wilkes Partnership considers the key points of the decision and how employers can prevent staff from damaging employer reputation via social media.

Mr Creighton joined Together Housing Association Ltd as an apprentice in 1987. In 2014 he was promoted to the position of Lead Gas Engineer.

In 2015 a complaint was made by one of the gas engineers that he was being bullied by Mr Creighton. Mr Creighton was suspended whilst Together Housing further investigated the allegation made. During the investigation process it was discovered Mr Creighton had posted derogatory comments about his colleagues and his employer on his Twitter account a number of years previously.

Mr Creighton was informed that the disciplinary process was being instigated as a result of the allegations of bullying and making derogatory comments on social media. Together Housing dismissed the bullying allegations, however it upheld the claim of making derogatory comments on social media. Mr Creighton was consequently dismissed for gross misconduct.

Mr Creighton appealed the decision to dismiss him on the basis that the investigation into his misconduct was unreasonable, the allegations themselves were historic and he had not been aware of the consequences of his Tweets.

The appeal panel dismissed Mr Creighton’s appeal, holding that he would have been aware (or should have been aware) of the consequences of his actions, as Together Housing’s disciplinary policy included “defaming the organisation or damaging its reputation by use of social media” as an example of gross misconduct.

Sarah Begley comments “This case serves as a useful reminder to Employers of the importance of having policies in place which set out expectations of staff, and the consequences of not following the policies. Without correct training and policies such as a Social Media Policy in place, employers will find it more difficult to discipline staff for misconduct.”

You can purchase a Social Media Policy from The Wilkes Partnership for a fixed price of £75 plus VAT. We also now offer a full suite of HR policies which you can read about here.

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Sarah Begley on 0121 733 4312 or via email at sbegley@wilkes.co.uk.

You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at employment@wilkes.co.uk