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Difficulty of social media posts and employment continues

Employers - and employees - are again reminded to think carefully about social media use and considering the potential repercussions of sharing posts.

This latest example highlights the competing interests of the employer and the employee as well as the tension between various human rights.

A pastoral assistant has been removed from her post at a Gloucestershire academy after a disciplinary panel found she had discriminated against its gay, lesbian and transgender pupils.

The staff member in question had objected to books being used in the teaching at her son’s Church of England primary school, at which she also worked. She shared two posts on her Facebook page, the first inviting her followers to sign a petition against the introduction of compulsory sex education in primary schools, saying “they have already started to brainwash our innocent wonderfully created children and it’s happening in our local primary school now”.

An anonymous complaint was made against her by email to the school, objecting to her “posting homophobic and prejudiced views”. The school’s disciplinary committee found her guilty of gross misconduct, citing the potential for the school’s reputation to be harmed despite there being “no actual evidence” that had happened. They also stated: “We are concerned that you did not demonstrate an appropriate understanding of the school’s requirement to respect and tolerate the views of others and to role model such behaviour.”

The staff member is now bringing a claim against her employer, for unfair dismissal and discrimination, supported by the Christian Legal Centre. She claims that she was dismissed for holding her viewpoint “because of my Christian beliefs - beliefs and views which are shared by hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK”.

The academy on the other hand maintains that the dismissal was "for reasons other than [your] religion" and that the statutory rights of its staff were "not absolute".

Whatever the outcome at the tribunal, this case highlights the difficulties in balancing the rights of the employer and employee. The staff member was posting on a personal social media account which was in her maiden name, not the name she used professionally, about personal religious beliefs.

Employers are reminded once again that to minimise risk they should ensure that their social media policies are up to date and comprehensive and that adequate guidance and repeated training is provided on appropriate and inappropriate social media use.

Posted on 28 April, 2019 by Ortolan

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