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Employment Law Case Update: Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd

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Mr Creighton commenced his employment with Together Housing Association Ltd (THA) as an engineering apprentice in 1987. During his employment he was promoted to Lead Gas Engineer in 2014, which involved managing gas engineers.

In 2015, a gas engineer made a complaint that he was being bullied by Mr Creighton. THA then suspended Mr Creighton whilst the investigation was being carried out in light of the bullying allegations. During the investigation, the gas engineer also reported that Mr Creighton had made derogatory comments about his colleagues and his employer on his Twitter account.

Mr Creighton’s Twitter account was ‘open’, which meant that his Tweets were available for anyone to view, which could affect THA’s reputation.

THA proceeded with disciplinary action against Mr Creighton and informed him of the bullying and social media conduct allegations. THA also informed Mr Creighton that if the allegations were proven to be true, this could result in his dismissal.

At the disciplinary hearing Mr Creighton was asked to explain the comments that he had made on Twitter, including a tweet that he had sent to two colleagues saying, “…just carry on and pick up your wage, this place is f**ked. It’s full of absolute bell ends who ain’t got any balls.”.

Mr Creighton apologised for the tweets and argued that he thought the tweets were private and stated the comments were made two or three years ago. Mr Creighton believed that he deserved to be treated sympathetically after nearly 30 years’ service.

THA dismissed the bullying allegations because of a lack of conclusive evidence, but upheld the allegation that Mr Creighton had posted derogatory comments on Twitter which resulted in his dismissal for gross misconduct. Mr Creighton appealed against his dismissal to the Employment Tribunal. He contended that the investigation into his misconduct had not been reasonable and that he had not been aware of the consequences of his tweets.

The Tribunal did not uphold Mr Creighton’s claim and accepted that his dismissal was for a potentially fair reason related to his conduct. THA was entitled to take action when it was discovered that Mr Creighton made derogatory comments about the company on a public Twitter account. Also, Mr Creighton had been given the opportunity to explain the comments but his response had not satisfied THA.

The Tribunal further stated that THA’s disciplinary policy included, as an example of gross misconduct, “defaming the organisation or damaging its reputation by use of social media”. More and more social media defamation cases are arising – which underlines the need for very clear social media stipulations in an employer’s terms & conditions.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 7/12/2017.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.