Mrs Whitham worked for Ventura, a company which provides customer services for clients such as Volkswagen. On one occasion Mrs Whitham posted on Facebook indicating that she felt as if she worked in a children’s nursery – she did not name or identify any individuals and her privacy settings meant that her updates could only be seen by people she was friends with on Facebook. A number of colleagues posted comments on the update.
When Mrs Whithams’s line manager became aware of the Facebook comments, disciplinary proceedings were begun. Mrs Whitham was eventually sacked for putting the company’s reputation at risk, despite the fact she had written an “extremely contrite” and “grovelling” apology. The company said the comments could have damaged its relationship with Volkswagen.
The tribunal found the reasons for dismissal were not reasonable, saying: “While we cannot rule out the possibility, it would seem to us that it would be a very strange world in which a company the size of Volkswagen (VW), working with a company the size of [Ventura], would terminate an important commercial agreement … because of a number of relatively mild comments made by a relatively junior employee of [Ventura] and which do not, in any manner, directly refer to VW in any event.”
The tribunal also noted that previously Mrs Whitham had a previously exemplary record and that she was experiencing some difficulties in her personal life at the time of the comments. Further, it noted that she had apologised to her employer immediately.