Religious Belief Discrimination
Mrs. K Higgs, employed in a school, was dismissed for having posted on her private Facebook account, her own views criticizing the teaching of LGBT relationships in primary schools. The school had been made aware of her posts by an anonymous complaint, who felt the posts were both homophobic and prejudiced to the LGBT community. She was subsequently taken through a disciplinary process and was dismissed for her actions following due process.
Mrs. K Higgs lodged an employment tribunal claim on the basis that she believed she had been discriminated against on the grounds of religious belief. She believed the dismissal breached her freedom of speech as well as freedom as religion. She also argued that she had been harassed in connection to her investigation process as she claimed she had been subjected to intimidating questioning.
The tribunal concluded that she had not been discriminated against, nor had she been harassed. The judgement found no underlying connection between her beliefs and the way in which the school had treated her. The judge concluded that her actions to post views on private, despite it being a personal account, could have reasonably led people to believe that she was homophobic and transphobic. Therefore, the school was warranted in its actions in taking a reasonable belief that the negative views would impact on various groups of people both within the school community, such as parents, children, and staff, as well as the wider local community.
Mrs. K Higgs has indicated that she will appeal the decision.
This case is a reminder that whilst Facebook and other forms of social media is used by employees personally, there are circumstances whereby an Employer may have the right to deal with inappropriate content, where it has a direct impact on the Employer. By placing content on social media, the content no longer becomes private as it is placed within the public domain.
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