Two recent unfair dismissal cases demonstrate the danger of not following correct procedure when dismissing employees. Neither business had proper policies in place, neither followed a code of practice when dismissing staff and both paid the price!
Theresa Mimnagh, Associate Director at Lawspeed said: “Coincidentally both of these cases relate to the use of Social Media by employees but the key point is that employers should have clear policies and disciplinary procedures so that it is easier to defend any Employment Tribunal (ET) case and make it less likely to incur fines.”
In one case the High Court ruled that a rugby league player who was sacked by his club after a photo of a team mates’ bottom appeared on his Twitter account was unlawfully dismissed.
The Judge ruled that Super League prop, Keith Mason’s actions could not be construed as breach of contract and stated that there was “clear evidence” the Huddersfield Giants wanted Mason off their books for other commercial reasons.
The player was awarded damages of £167,000 when the Judge said that his sacking by the rugby club was unfair. The legal costs of £35,000 for the three-day hearing will also be passed on to the Giants.
In the second case, a driver who was sacked for posting negative comments about his employer on Facebook won his claim at an Employment Tribunal.
Niall Kass criticised his employers’ vehicle maintenance practice on Facebook after being issued with a £60 fixed penalty from the police because the vehicle’s MOT had expired.
His employers asked Mr Kass to remove the online posting and then decided that his actions constituted serious misconduct, warranting summary dismissal.
In reviewing the case the Judge said that there had been procedural failings in the dismissal; Mr Kass had not been given the chance to explain himself, the Facebook page was not publicly viewable and his appeal against the dismissal (within the company) had not been carried out independently. It was judged that the Claimant had contributed to his sacking but he still received compensation of £1,160.
Mimnagh concluded: “The main issue was the failure to follow suitable procedures by the Respondents. It does not matter how serious the allegation is considered to be; if an employee can claim unfair dismissal employers are required to follow the ACAS code of practice for disciplinary procedures and ensure that managers are trained in the correct process.”