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A driver was fairly dismissed for an online Covid safety rant

In Lynch v Middlesbrough DP Ltd ET/2500981/20, an employment tribunal held that a pizza delivery driver was fairly dismissed for making serious threats to a colleague via Facebook messages.

Facts

Mr Lynch was a delivery driver for Domino's Pizza (although his employer was franchisee Middlesbrough DP Ltd).


At the start of the pandemic, Mr Lynch was concerned for his safety, and he emailed the company's HR inbox and said that he would not be coming to work until it was safe to do so. The company offered him unpaid self-isolation.


Mr Lynch got into an online argument with a colleague and threatened: 'I will f***** stab you in your ugly face it will then look better than it does now you can count on that.' He also complained about his branch remaining open.


The employer dismissed him for breaching its social media policy.


Mr Lynch claimed automatic unfair dismissal on the basis that he was dismissed for having made protected disclosures via his emails to the HR inbox and his social media posts.


Tribunal judgment


The tribunal did not believe that Mr Lynch's emails to the HR inbox about his branch remaining open could be properly described as disclosures of information. The fact that this branch remained open was 'widely known and in the public domain'.


The employment tribunal went on to conclude that, even if the complaints could be regarded as protected disclosures, there was no indication that Mr Lynch was dismissed because of them. The tribunal observed that the management was 'not offended or unhappy' to have received them and its response was prompt and appropriate.


In addition, the tribunal accepted that Mr Lynch's social media messages were not disclosures of information. The tribunal described the messages as a 'piece of abuse coupled to an expression of opinion' and the 'abusive threat of violence addressed to a specific individual employee'.


The employment tribunal held that the main reason for Mr Lynch's dismissal was that he had made a serious threat against a colleague, in breach of the employer's social media policy.

The provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which protect whistle-blowers do not protect an employee being dismissed for making a serious and public threat of violence against another employee.

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