Man wins fight over Facebook posting

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A Christian who was demoted for posting his opposition to gay marriage on Facebook will receive less than £100 compensation after winning his legal action for breach of contract.

Adrian Smith, 55, lost his managerial position, had his salary cut by 40 per cent and was given a final written warning by Trafford Housing Trust after posting that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far”.

The comments were not visible to the general public, and were posted outside work time, but the trust said he broke its code of conduct by expressing religious or political views which might upset co-workers.

Mr Justice Briggs, in London’s High Court, said the trust did not have a right to demote Mr Smith as his Facebook postings did not amount to misconduct.

He added that the postings were not – viewed objectively – judgmental, disrespectful or liable to cause upset or offence, and were expressed in moderate language.

As for their content, they were widely held views frequently to be heard on radio and television, or read in the newspapers.

He said he had “real disquiet” about the financial outcome for Mr Smith, whose compensation was limited to the small difference between his contractual salary and the amount actually paid to him during the 12 weeks following his assumption of his new, but reduced, role. If Mr Smith had begun proceedings for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal, rather than for breach of contract in the county court, there was every reason to suppose he would have been awarded a substantial sum – but Mr Smith had said that by the time he had raised the necessary funds, the time limit for such proceedings had expired.

Later, Mr Smith said: “I didn’t do this for the money – I did this because there is an important principle at stake. Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge’s ruling underlines that important principle.

“But this sad case should never have got this far. Long ago, Trafford Housing Trust should have admitted they made a terrible mistake.”

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