The EAT has heard the first Twitter case recently and has held that a dismissal for offensive but non work related comments on a personal Twitter account is potentially fair.
An employee who worked for Games Retail Limited set up his own personal twitter account and started to follow many of his employer’s stores. His role was that of Risk Officer and therefore he advised that he was following other stores to monitor communication and whether it was acceptable or not. The Claimant posted some offensive and abusive tweets that were complained about and reported to the Respondent by a store manger who was one of the Claimant’s followers. Whilst the tweets did not name the Respondent or link the Claimant to the Respondent, the Claimant was dismissed and brought Tribunal proceedings.
The Tribunal had held that the dismissal was unfair because it did not fall “within the band of reasonable responses”. This was despite the nature of the tweets which were offensive, included expletives and were offensive towards certain groups of people.
The Respondent appealed and the EAT has decided that the Tribunal had failed to take into account the public nature of Twitter.
The EAT has refered the case back to a fresh Tribunal to decide whether the decision to dismiss this employee was “within the band of reasonable responses”.
What was also borne out in this case as has been said in other social media related cases is the importance of a clearly drafted social media policy. If you do not have one please get in touch.