Tribunal date set for firefighter sacked over tweets


An employment tribunal for the firefighter who was summarily dismissed after tweeting from his personal account has been pencilled in to start on 28 September and is scheduled to last four days.

Ashley Brown, a member of the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS), was charged with gross misconduct and summarily dismissed on 9 December 2013.

The contents of Brown's tweets addressed the subject of pension cuts and were made from his personal account. Due to a pending tribunal, they are not available to publish at this time.

The HFRS deemed Brown's tweets to be "threatening in nature" and suggested they may have brought the County Council into disrepute. Despite the firefighter having the full support of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and local MP Charles Walker, his initial appeal was dismissed.

In the last week, a petition to have the firefighter reinstated was set up and has passed the 5,000 signatures mark. A lobby of the Fire Authority is also expected to go ahead on 15 July 2014.

Brown worked as a firefighter for 25 years and had an unblemished record at the time of the incident.

The perils of Twitter

The above incident is a stark reminder about the dangers of Twitter. Ashley Brown isn't the first person to fall foul of his employer or the law. Here we have a look at five other incidents:

1. The Twitter Joke trial

Paul Chambers was unwittingly responsible for one of the world's most infamous tweets when he published the following in January 2010:

Chambers was fired from his job and charged under the Communications Act 2003. He was initially found guilty and ordered to pay 385 in fines and 600 court costs. Two visits to the High Court later and the conviction was overturned and the tweets were not deemed to be of menacing character.

2. Matt Bowman and pals

In August 2013, Toronto firefighter Matt Bowman was found posting sexist tweets on his Twitter account that caused him and a pal to lose their jobs.

One tweet, posted in November 2012, stated: "Reject a woman and she will never let it go. One of the may defects of their kind. Also weak arms."

Another, published in March 2013, referenced a phrase from the TV show South Park and read:

His colleague Lawaun Edwards also had his employment terminated for posting sexist tweets, including one asking: "Would swatting her in the back of the head be considered abuse or a way to reset the brain?"

The tweets were considered unacceptable and a breach of Toronto's social media policies.

3. Cameron Jankowski

In July 2012, the former Taco Bell worker from Indiana posted tweets of himself urinating on nachos during his break, and was subsequently terminated from his contract of employment. This was despite his defence that the soiled food items were never served to any customers.

Before he was fired, Jankowski said he didn't care if Taco Bell fired him over the prank, before declaring "There are no laws saying what you can and cannot p*ss upon."

Unfortunately, his bravado cost him when hacking collective Anonymous tweeted a link to a video containing his personal information, allowing his employers to track him down.

4. Tim Chantarangsu

Former pizza worker (and now self-styled "YouTube sensation") Tim Chantarangsu decided to share his disgust at changes to the uniform rules at the pizzeria where he was employed on Twitter.

He posted "@calpizzakitchen black button ups are the lamest sh*t ever!!!"

While some might argue the nature of his tweets were simply the musings of a frustrated pizza worker, the post got him fired from Long Beach California Pizza Kitchen on misconduct grounds.

In response, he posted a video on YouTube about his controversial tweets.

5. Sally Bercow

The wife of the House of Common's speaker posted the following tweet after BBC Newsnight wrongly linked a "leading Conservative politician" to sex abuse claims:

The use of the smiley face was deemed to make the tweet "insincere and ironical" and she was ordered to pay damages.

Khidr Suleman is the Technical Editor at IT Pro, a role he has fulfilled since March 2012. He is responsible for the reviews section on the site  - so get in touch if you have a product you think might be of interest to the business world. He also covers the hardware and operating systems beats. Prior to joining IT Pro, Khidr worked as a reporter at Incisive Media. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.