Case Review: Employee who was demoted following Facebook comments wins breach of contract case

Adrian Smith, employed by the Trafford Housing Trust and also a devout Christian, remarked on his Facebook page that gay marriage was “an equality too far”. His comments were considered to be misconduct and as a result Mr Smith was demoted with a 40% pay cut.

However this week a High Court judgment found in favour of Mr Smith, and that under his employment contract the comments did not amount to misconduct.

Mr Smith, 55, in an emailed statement said, “Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge’s ruling underlines that important principle. Something has poisoned the atmosphere in Britain, where an honest man like me can be punished for making perfectly polite remarks.”

Mr Smith had made the comments on Facebook in February 2011 after reading about David Cameron’s plans to legalise same-sex marriage. Currently in the UK gay couples can obtain a civil partnership which confer many of the same rights as a marriage.

An internal disciplinary process within Trafford had found that Mr Smith should be sacked over the comments, instead he was demoted due to his “long record of loyal service.”

Tom Street of Do I Have A Case comments: “We are seeing an increasing number of conflicts between employees and employers over the use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. As we all know, social media and the sharing of information online has gone through exponential growth over the last few years, and internal company procedures are struggling to catch-up. As a result employees are in the dark as to what they should or shouldn’t do, and employers are unsure to what extent they are responsible for comments made by their staff online.”