Successful win for employee wrongly dismissed
Gannons helped a rugby player dismissed over a social media post claim for wrongful dismissal and win £167,000 in damages.
This recent sports case illustrates some important legal points. A high profile rugby player posted a compromising photo of one of his team mates’ bare buttocks onto his twitter account. His club (also his employer) dismissed him for gross misconduct as a result of this incident.
High Court claim
The claim was brought in the High Court and for wrongful dismissal rather than an unfair one. The amount awarded for unfair dismissal is capped. This claim was higher than the cap.
However, High Court claims are riskier. If the player lost, he would face paying the club’s costs. Generally, Employment Tribunal claims don’t result in adverse cost awards.
Fundamental breach of contract
Dismissal for gross misconduct requires a fundamental breach of contract. So, the club claimed that posting the photo was a fundamental breach. We are surprised they argued this. There was evidence that the club was seeking to reduce their wage bill and so used this incident to conveniently dismiss our client.
Social media employment law risks
The case highlights the risk of social media. The club may have believed they were within their rights to dismiss our client based on somewhat analogous cases as social media activity has resulted in dismissals. However, in those cases the activity was racist or homophobic. In this case, the club argued that our client’s activity contravened their values, however, this did not amount to a breach of his contract. Therefore, he should not have been dismissed for gross misconduct.
Future loss of earnings
The amount awarded to our client accounted for his actual, and a degree of future lost earnings. Note that the player had a duty to mitigate his loss by seeking alternative employment. His claim for future loss succeeded, because he argued the dismissal hampered his reputation and employability.
In the context of a sportsman, this is interesting. After all, the primary reason for their employment is sporting prowess. It indicates a trend that even professional sports organisations select staff, not just on sporting prowess criteria, but also potential non-sporting risk.
Totally impressed by the management of my case.