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Train driver wins unfair dismissal claim despite posting offensive and discriminatory tweets

Updated: Feb 6, 2023



In November 2022 the Employment Tribunal heard the unfair dismissal claim of an employee of train operator First MTR South Western Trains (SWR), Paul Weller. Mr Weller was dismissed in July 2020 following a disciplinary hearing after a SWR service user reported tweets posted on Mr Weller’s personal account relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, immigration issues, anti-Islamic statements, as well as offensive and racial comments about Chinese people.


Evidence was presented to the tribunal suggesting that Mr Weller had received and signed for various company policy documents in 2018, including SWR’s social media policy. However, the ‘critical’ Record of Briefing document was unsigned.


Despite the fact that the tribunal documents a string of tweets posted by Mr Weller between 2018 and 2020 containing offensive and discriminatory material, which the tribunal acknowledged could damage working relationships in a multicultural workforce and were in direct breach of SWR’s social media policy, it was found that there was insufficient evidence that Mr Weller had both seen, understood and been briefed on this or any other company policy, as the Record of Briefing document had not been signed to that effect.


Significantly, Judge Cox found that the existence of the Record of Briefing document not only demonstrated that SWR had a policy and procedure of briefing employees and obtaining signatures as record but that in this case the absence of Mr Weller’s signature indicated he had neither been briefed on, nor agreed to, the company’s social media policy.


Cox further commented that as social media activity conducted on personal equipment outside of working hours and that does not directly identify or criticise the employer is a ‘nuanced area’, a reasonable employer “might be expected to provide clarity or some degree of prior education or awareness training”.


This case demonstrates that not only is there no substitute for obtaining employee signatures as evidencing the fact they have received relevant policies but ensuring they are trained on those policies can be crucial in successfully defending a claim in the event of dismissal.





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