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.