Preece v JD Wetherspoons plc ET2104806/10

Ms Preece, who worked for Wetherspoons as a manager of a pub, was found to have been fairly dismissed for gross misconduct having made inappropriate comments on Facebook about her customers in breach of Wetherspoons email and internet policy.   

Having been abused by two customers Ms Preece, while still on duty, entered conversations on her Facebook account about the incident and made negative comments about the customers.  A complaint was made to Wetherspoons by the customer’s daughter.  Ms Preece admitted she had made the comments and that she had been angry and upset.  Wetherspoons considered that Ms Preece’s conduct had lowered their reputation and resulted in a fundamental breakdown of trust and confidence between them.   

After she was dismissed she brought a claim for unfair dismissal.  Her claim was unsuccessful.  Although the customers’ behaviour was abusive and shocking she should have used a hotline to seek advice or left work early, rather than use Facebook on duty.  The sanction of dismissal fell within the range of reasonable responses available to a reasonable employer.  The Tribunal said it would have been more inclined to issue a final written warning to Ms Preece.   

Key point:  The case highlights the usefulness and importance of having a properly drafted policy regarding the use of social media at work.