Social media - Employee fairly dismissed for historic tweets

Creighton v Together Housing Association Ltd

A long serving employee who was dismissed for making derogatory comments about his colleagues and his employer on social media has had a claim for unfair dismissal rejected by an employment tribunal.

The employee began as an engineering apprentice for a housing association in 1987. By 2014 he had worked his way up to lead gas engineer. During an investigation into alleged bullying of another engineer, his employer discovered that he had made derogatory comments up to three years previously about his colleagues and employer on his open Twitter account.

The employer took disciplinary action against the employee and, although the bullying allegations were dismissed, the employer’s disciplinary panel dismissed the employee for gross misconduct over his tweets despite his arguments that:

  • He had thought his tweets were private;
  • He had posted them two or three years ago; and
  • He “deserved to be treated sympathetically” after nearly 30 years’ service.

His appeal against his dismissal was rejected and he brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

The Tribunal did not uphold his claim. It accepted that his dismissal was for a potentially fair reason related to his conduct and his employer was entitled to take action when it discovered that he had made derogatory comments about his employer on a public Twitter account.

The employee had been given the opportunity to explain the comments but his response had not satisfied the employer. According to the Tribunal, the age of the tweets did not matter - it accepted that his dismissal was for a potentially fair reason related to his conduct.

In Practice

This case shows the importance of how careful workers should be on social media, particularly when it comes to posting about you as their employer or other members of staff. You should be aware that even historical tweets can amount to gross misconduct. Trade Union Act 2016

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