Friday, November 16, 2012

British Court Says Employer Breached Contract In Disciplining Christian Employee For Facebook Remarks

In Smith v. Trafford Housing Trust, (EWHC, Nov. 16, 2012), a British trial court (the England and Wales High Court Chancery Division) held that a non-profit organization that owns rental properties across the Borough of Trafford was in breach of contract when it demoted a Christian employee because of Facebook postings he made opposing performing of same-sex marriages in churches. The housing trust had argued that their employee, by making the posting, violated its employee code of conduct and its equal opportunity policy. Rejecting those contentions, Mr. Justice Briggs wrote in part:
I do not consider that any reasonable reader of Mr Smith’s Facebook wall page could rationally conclude that his two postings about gay marriage in church were made in any relevant sense on the Trust’s behalf....
The prohibition on the promotion of the political and religious views in the Code of Conduct did not, as a matter of interpretation and application, extend to Mr Smith’s Facebook wall....
Mr Smith’s use of his Facebook involved his work colleagues only to the extent that they sought his views by becoming his Facebook friends, and that did not detract to any significant extent from the essentially personal and social nature of his use of it as a medium for communication. and The Register both report on the decision.

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