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Employer liable for joke ‘outing’ on Facebook

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  1. False outing. Oh dear, I’m assumed to be heterosexual every day until I point out the error of people’s ways. I have no time for this nonsense.
    He should just say he isn’t and be done with it. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

    1. Bisexual woman in Edinburgh 20 Jul 2012, 6:59pm

      The thing is, a “joke” outing is based on the knowledge that being LGBT makes you more liable to be bullied. It’s turning sexuality into a joke, it’s turning bullying about sexuality into a joke, it’s making light of people’s experiences. I’d feel weirdly embarrassed being on the receiving end of that as well, just as I’d feel odd if someone incorrectly outed me about something else that’s socially stigmatised. If I had to say, for instance, “No, I’m not an alcoholic, that was just X having a bit of fun – of course, I’m not trying to make nasty remarks about alcoholics, and I don’t think alcoholism is funny,” it’d be fairly uncomfortable. People tend to feel inappropriately shamed when they are the victims of crimes; it’s the same thing at work here, although it’s a prank rather than a full-scale crime.

  2. I struggle to see how employers can be held responsible when individuals don’t have enough common sense to have their phone secured in the first place. Have a feeling it would have never come up if there hadn’t been a case for gross misconduct in the first instance.

  3. A decision as to whether to be out or not should be that of each individual to make.

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jul 2012, 3:32pm

      This isn’t about being “out” – it was a prank, that’s all.

  4. What an appalling verdict. Is no one responsible for their OWN actions any more?

    1. I’d imagine the verdict will ensure that the employer makes pretty damn certain that the the employees take responsibility.

    2. You can not take an ex-colleague to an employment tribunal – but you can take an ex-employer to ET for failing to protect you.

      1. essexgirlbecky 21 Jul 2012, 1:15am

        Sorry to correct you on a point of law Stuart, but employees who bring discrimination claims will sometimes bring the claim against both the employer and the particular employee who committed the act of discrimination. An employment tribunal can order that they are jointly and severally liable for compensation awarded.

        1. I stand corrected! ;-)

          I note most claims of ET against individuals tend to be less successful than those against employer, employment agencies etc (from my reading this morning!)

          1. essexgirlbecky 21 Jul 2012, 2:39pm

            That’s fair comment and is easily explained. I’m reasonably sure that litigants cannot take independent action against co-workers in an employment tribunal; they can only do so in the context of a primary claim against their employer. On a purely cynical basis most people won’t bother to pursue the individual through the employment tribunal simply because it is unlikely to be a worthwhile exercise. On the other hand employers are seen as having the money to pay damages or alternatively carry insurance in case they are found liable!

  5. Surely he had a responsibility not to leave his i phone placed where others could use it? I don’t see why it is the employers fault.

    1. Even if this is so, then his employer had a responsibility to tackle bullying and harassment.

  6. Hodge Podge 21 Jul 2012, 12:39pm

    This happens all the time at university, where EVERYONE is on Facebook. Apparently liberal people think it’s the funniest thing every when you post a status about gay sex.
    The weirdest situation was when someone changed my ‘interested in’ from bi to gay because that was funnier I suppose? People have strange attitudes about bisexuality.

    1. Hodge Podge 21 Jul 2012, 12:40pm


    2. Spanner1960 21 Jul 2012, 3:14pm

      I guess you are in two minds about that one.

    3. Ah having people “frape” you in university halls … The difference is at uni its in your own time when your at work especially dealing with the public you need to be professional.

  7. essexgirlbecky 21 Jul 2012, 2:53pm

    I would be surprised if this is the first case of its type; maybe it’s just the first to attract such attention. There is certainly nothing new in this judgement; it just reinforces the principle that employers may be held liable for the actions of their employees – something we have known for ages.

    The novelty lies purely in the medium through which the ‘insult’ is delivered. In law it is no different to a situation where a disgruntled employees scrawl abuse about their boss on the back of the toilet door. However this method is guaranteed to reach a far wider audience!

  8. Spanner1960 21 Jul 2012, 3:13pm

    Sounds like sour grapes to me.
    the bloke was caught with his hand in the till, so to speak, so they sacked him and he’s trying to find some way to get back at them.

    Next thing he will be accusing someone of calling him black.

  9. It’s his own fault he left his phone lying around and without a password lock on it. He’s an idiot. This was a prank. He really ought to get a life and be able to laugh at himself.

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