A Christian housing worker who was demoted, disciplined and had his pay cut for criticising gay marriage on Facebook has been awarded less than £100 in damages.
Adrian Smith, 55, who worked for the Trafford Housing Trust in Manchester, had described gay marriage as “an equality too far” on the social networking site in 2011. When co-workers questioned him on his views, he wrote:
“The Bible is quite specific that marriage is for men and women. If the state wants to offer civil marriage to the same sex then that is up to the state; but the state shouldn’t impose its rules on places of faith and conscience.”
Although the comments were not visible to the general public, the trust ruled that he had broken its code of conduct by expressing views that might upset his co-workers, and he was demoted from his managerial position.
However, Mr Justice Briggs ruled in the High Court yesterday that the posts did not amount to misconduct and that the trust had therefore breached Mr Smith’s contract:
‘The breach of contract which the trust thereby committed was serious and repudiatory.”
Mr Smith was awarded the difference between his contractual salary and the amount he earned in his reduced role for 12 weeks. The judge commented that he was “uncomfortable” about only being able to award the plaintiff the small sum.
Trust Chief Executive Matthew Gardiner said: ‘We fully accept the court’s decision and I have made a full and sincere apology to Adrian. At the time we believed we were taking the appropriate action following discussions with our employment solicitors and taking into account his previous disciplinary record.
He added: ‘This case has highlighted the challenges that businesses face with the increased use of social media and we have reviewed our documentation and procedures to avoid a similar situation arising in the future. Adrian remains employed by the Trust and I am pleased this matter has now concluded.”