Employee dismissed over Facebook comments awarded £5,376

A company had not acted unfairly when it dismissed an employee for gross misconduct after he made offensive comments about the managing director on Facebook.

However, the employee’s behaviour had not been so bad that it warranted dismissal without any notice pay so he was entitled to compensation. That was the decision of the Employment Tribunal in a case involving employee Darren Atherton and Benson’s Vending, based in Lancashire.

The tribunal heard that Mr Atherton became angry when the company’s Christmas bonuses were reduced in value due to financial restraints. He began posting offensive comments about the managing director, Ken Haselden. One suggested Mr Haselden had kept the Christmas bonuses for himself. It said: “He spends a few grand on a new dog then we get told ‘no bonus this year’ but we can have a bottle!!!”. Another post read: “Well, he can stick his bottle where the sun doesn’t shine because I refuse to be insulted in this way!!!"

Mr Atherton apologised for the comments at a disciplinary hearing and said that, at the age of 55, he was embarrassed and regretted what he had done. The company said the comments had been “extremely derogatory” and dismissed him for gross misconduct without notice or pay in lieu of notice.

The Employment Tribunal rejected Mr Atherton’s claim of unfair dismissal but ruled that although offensive, his actions had not reached the “high hurdle” required to prove “gross misconduct” and so did not justify dismissal without notice.

Mr Atherton was awarded £5,376 compensation.

Please contact  Paul Stevens on 020 8290 7422 or by email pstevens@judge-priestley.co.uk if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.

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