Facebook, gay marriage and management incompetence

On Friday 16 November the High Court, in London, found in favour of 55 year old Adrian Smith who had been demoted at work and had his salary reduced by 40% because he had posted a Facebook status update in which he said opening up marriage to gay couples was an equality too far.

The Court ruled Smith’s employer – Trafford Housing Trust – was in breach of contract and shouldn’t have behaved the way it had. I think any right-minded person would agree that whether you share Smith’s opinion or not, he has the right to express his opinions – he wasn’t inciting violence, he wasn’t being abusive, he hadn’t posted while at work and his status update was visible only to his Facebook friends.

The chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, Matthew Gardiner, made a number of statements, one of which is utterly ludicrous.

“This case has highlighted the challenges that businesses face with the increased use of social media and we have reviewed our documentation and procedures to avoid a similar situation arising in the future.”

No, Mr Gardiner, it has not highlighted the challenges of coping with social media. It has highlighted that somewhere within Trafford Housing Trust an idiot made a bad management decision and broke the law.

This case has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to do with poor management within an organisation. Finding something else to blame, something external, just demonstrates the extent to which poor management decisions are still being made.

What sort of person thinks it can ever be ok to demote someone and cut their pay by almost half? A stupid one..? An arrogant one..? Who knows. But to suggest that when faced with the complexities of how you cope with staff using social media one of the options open to you is to flout their employment rights beggars belief.

It’s a great idea to have a social media in place so that employees know what’s expected of them when posting comments online, you can even use such a document to offer advice and guidance.

It’s an even better idea to remember that when mistakes are made, and everyone makes them occasionally, pointing the finger of blame at some bogeyman or other is a sign of weakness and incompetence.

The Daily Mail wrote the story up big. You can read it here.

Love and marriage

I don’t want to live in a society where discrimination is hard-wired into the institutions that surround us.
I don’t. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t want to be discriminated against, and I don’t want the people I share this island with to be discriminated against either.
As lovely and wishy-washy as those sentiments are, I am drawn to this topic, on this occasion, by the rumpus surrounding the UK government’s proposed changes to marriage.
The 2004 Civil Partnership Act gave same-sex couples the option to enter into a legally recognised and binding partnership with all the same rights and responsibilities afforded through marriage. But it’s not marriage, it’s a civil partnership.
Now the government wants to open out the scope of marriage, so that it is available to same sex couples. Not surprisingly there has been a lot of negative reaction from some quarters, the obvious ones being the Church and the right-wing moral majority lobby. But I’ve also heard criticism of it from gay men (ok, one gay man) claiming that this attempt at equality will just push people to more extreme oppositional points of view.
The Church – Catholic and Anglican – is against marriage being made available to same sex couples. This should not surprise anyone. Nor, frankly, should it concern anyone.
I respect anyone’s right to follow their religious beliefs right up to the point where they impinge on the dignity and freedom of other people. So, this is not an attack – even a mild one – on organised religion.
However, I think the Church needs to wind its neck in – as they say in Liverpool. It doesn’t own marriage. It didn’t invent it. It existed during the pre-Christian Roman Empire, and further back was evident in Ancient Greece.
Traditionalists… behold the wound-in neck of the Church and prepare to follow suit. Anyone in the “we shouldn’t tinker with important societal traditions” camp needs to consider the changes to their precious tradition in the past. For example, women no longer lose all property rights when they marry. This is a good thing. It is also a good example of why things like marriage need to keep changing over time.
Marriage exists today as a legally binding state of personal affairs between two people, and has been modified over the years to ensure it is – broadly – in step with wider social and economic concerns. And when, as some people do, you’ve had enough and you want out, you don’t get divorced in a church, you get divorced in a court of law.
Arguments about marriage being about a natural state of affairs between a man and a woman, or that the best environment for raising children is in a happy, stable home with married parents – one of each gender – are all well and good.  But they start from a set of assumptions that are plainly unrealistic.  After all not every marriage is happy and not all children are raised by loving parents.
Whatever your vision of an ideal world, chances are we don’t live in it. But that’s no reason to do nothing, or to adopt an entrenched oppositional stance.
Replacing the current two-tier approach of marriage for straights and civil partnership for the gay and lesbian community is an indication that the UK is committed to eradicating discrimination.
To me, that can only be a good thing.