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Old 16th November 2012, 10:50 AM   #1
Rolfe
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Employee demoted, 40% pay cut, for Facebook comment

Adrian Smith had been employed by Trafford Housing Trust for many years. He made a couple of comments on Facebook, and was demoted from his managerial position with a 40% pay cut.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england...ester-20357131

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A Christian who was demoted in his job for a comment he wrote on Facebook about gay marriages has won a breach of contract action against his employers.

Adrian Smith, 55, lost his managerial position and had a 40% salary cut after saying a gay wedding held in a church was an "equality too far". [....]

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

I disagree profoundly with what he said, but he said it politely and reasonably. He said it as privately as one can say something on Facebook, and he didn't say it during working hours. This is taking political correctness way too far, and even gay and lesbian groups are saying that.

Rolfe.
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Old 16th November 2012, 10:56 AM   #2
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Yeah. If he had mouthed off to colleagues at work, they might have had a case for disciplinary action but it's a bit much to hold him to account for views expressed in private.
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:14 AM   #3
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He comprehensively won the case, but it's not certain that'll get him his old job back. And at the age of 55 this could have profound implications for his income and eventual pension.

The BBC showed his actual comments. They were merely personal opinion, politely and temperately expressed. I disagree profoundly with what he said, but there is no way saying that should be punished at all, never mind so severely.

How did his employer find the comments if they were private, I wonder? I don't know how Facebook works, but wouldn't they need a password?

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Old 16th November 2012, 11:14 AM   #4
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Clearly he's creating a hostile work environment. What a fag.
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:31 AM   #5
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What a strange case...
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:47 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
He comprehensively won the case, but it's not certain that'll get him his old job back. And at the age of 55 this could have profound implications for his income and eventual pension.
Given his age and the nature of his former employeer odds are he's got a Trafford metropolitan borough council pension.

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The BBC showed his actual comments. They were merely personal opinion, politely and temperately expressed. I disagree profoundly with what he said, but there is no way saying that should be punished at all, never mind so severely.
THT are effectively a spun off local goverment department. Result is that they are going to be rather paraniod about their employees saying anything that could upset anyone because someone will complain.

Being management makes things worse of course because then the media may get involved.

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How did his employer find the comments if they were private, I wonder? I don't know how Facebook works, but wouldn't they need a password?
Most likely he had some of he work colleges as facebook friends.
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
...

Most likely he had some of he work colleges as facebook friends.
Private investigators create fake persons and send friend requests to people of interest. Sometimes they bite.

ETA: No idea on this case, though.
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:57 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
Private investigators create fake persons and send friend requests to people of interest. Sometimes they bite.

ETA: No idea on this case, though.
Can't imagaine anyone would think that worthwhile.
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Old 16th November 2012, 11:58 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Given his age and the nature of his former employeer odds are he's got a Trafford metropolitan borough council pension.

"Final salary", perchance?

Rolfe.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:01 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Can't imagaine anyone would think that worthwhile.
Often this is done in pre-employment vetting.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
The BBC showed his actual comments. They were merely personal opinion, politely and temperately expressed. I disagree profoundly with what he said, but there is no way saying that should be punished at all, never mind so severely.
I'm not sure it's a punishment, necessarily. If he's in a role that requires maintaining a certain level of trust and respect from one's employers and co-workers, and his actions undermine that trust and respect, then it's kind of unreasonable to keep him in that role. And if he's no longer in that role, then it's kind of unreasonable to keep compensating him as if he were.

Now, maybe they're utterly wrong that he can't do the job effectively after expressing the opinions he expressed. Or maybe they're right.

I think it's unfortunate that only after he received such a rewarding position, did he discover that his values weren't closely-enough aligned with his employers for them to be comfortable with having him in that position.

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How did his employer find the comments if they were private, I wonder? I don't know how Facebook works, but wouldn't they need a password?
More than likely he added some of his co-workers (and probably also people from partner organizations) to his Facebook friends list.

In a bygone era, controversial remarks made at a private cocktail party within earshot of guests who also happened to be co-workers, would be reasonably expected to have workplace repercussions, even though the party was "private".

The Internet isn't actually separate from Real Life, and what happens on the Internet doesn't actually stay there.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:10 PM   #12
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Well, the judge found quite comprehensively in his favour. Opinion is split as to whether same-sex weddings should be allowed in church, which is what he was commenting on. Preventing people from expressing their opinion on that is absolutely ridiculous.

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Old 16th November 2012, 12:25 PM   #13
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Was he prevented from expressing his opinion? Or did he express it, have negative consequences as a result, and then want those consequences undone?
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:36 PM   #14
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Imposing adverse consequences on people for expressing their opinion is a way of preventing them (in future, and others, in future) from expressing their opinions.

Rolfe.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:44 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Imposing adverse consequences on people for expressing their opinion is a way of preventing them (in future, and others, in future) from expressing their opinions.

Rolfe.
What about the adverse consequences imposed on his employer, for expressing their opinion that they'd rather not have him in that particular role? Isn't that also prevention?
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:46 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Imposing adverse consequences on people for expressing their opinion is a way of preventing them (in future, and others, in future) from expressing their opinions.

Rolfe.
So you enjoy total freedom of speech with legal immunity to any negative consequence?
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:51 PM   #17
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I just assumed they demoted him because he had a facebook account. I'd support that wholeheartedly.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:54 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm not sure it's a punishment, necessarily. If he's in a role that requires maintaining a certain level of trust and respect from one's employers and co-workers, and his actions undermine that trust and respect, then it's kind of unreasonable to keep him in that role. And if he's no longer in that role, then it's kind of unreasonable to keep compensating him as if he were.

Now, maybe they're utterly wrong that he can't do the job effectively after expressing the opinions he expressed. Or maybe they're right.

I think it's unfortunate that only after he received such a rewarding position, did he discover that his values weren't closely-enough aligned with his employers for them to be comfortable with having him in that position.
Thats rather a dangerious position as it gives people's a very large level of control over people's behavior which has rather serious liberty and freedom of speech implications.

Quote:
More than likely he added some of his co-workers (and probably also people from partner organizations) to his Facebook friends list.

In a bygone era, controversial remarks made at a private cocktail party within earshot of guests who also happened to be co-workers, would be reasonably expected to have workplace repercussions, even though the party was "private".
In fact they probably wouldn't. No written record apart from anything else.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:58 PM   #19
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It's always good practice to not document your bigotry.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:59 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
I just assumed they demoted him because he had a facebook account. I'd support that wholeheartedly.
I have a facebook page, even though 99.9% of the time all servers associated with facebook are blocked on my computer via host file. Neither do I have a self photo on there.
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Old 16th November 2012, 12:59 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What about the adverse consequences imposed on his employer, for expressing their opinion that they'd rather not have him in that particular role? Isn't that also prevention?
No thats an attempt to reduce the imbalance of power between employeer and employee.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:03 PM   #22
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Is everyone clear what the man actually said? He said he didn't agree with same-sex weddings being performed in church. Is this an opinion so bigoted and off-the-wall that merely holding it and expressing it privately damages his employer and makes him unemployable?

(The interesting part was that his reasoning seemed to be that people in same-sex relationships were not Christians, so why would they want a church wedding. He seemed entirely unaware of the number of people in same-sex relationships who are committed Christians and regular church-goers.)

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Old 16th November 2012, 01:04 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Imposing adverse consequences on people for expressing their opinion is a way of preventing them (in future, and others, in future) from expressing their opinions.

Rolfe.
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
What about the adverse consequences imposed on his employer, for expressing their opinion that they'd rather not have him in that particular role? Isn't that also prevention?
Many jobs do now have policies where you are not allowed to reveal exactly who you work for. I think that is reasonable.

Beyond that I see no reason why employers should be able to control what you can and cannot say outwith breaking the law, such as people inciting riots on social media sites. In that case dismissal could come from breaking the law as opposed to what was said.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:06 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by johnny karate View Post
It's always good practice to not document your bigotry.
I do not see what he said as being bigoted. Otherwise, yes people can come undone by the searches employers do of their staff on social media sites.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Thats rather a dangerious position as it gives people's a very large level of control over people's behavior which has rather serious liberty and freedom of speech implications.
"We'll remove you from positions of trust and confidence within our organization, if we discover that your actions do not inspire the trust and confidence we feel are necessary for those positions."

Yeah, that's really dangerous stuff, there.

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In fact they probably wouldn't. No written record apart from anything else.
My point was that things said in a "private" context don't somehow magically stay out of the workplace simply because your co-workers weren't in the office when they heard you say them.

If you're at a non-work event and your boss is also attending, and he overhears you remark--temperately--that maybe employees should take it upon themselves to share company secrets with third party watchdog organizations... You don't think he'll take that into consideration when you're up for promotion to a job that involves working with company secrets? You don't think he'll wonder if maybe he shouldn't recommend to his boss that you be audited for such behavior in your current position. You don't think he'll want to maybe remove you from a position that involves working with company secrets?

Things said in "private" have repercussions. What happens on Facebook doesn't stay on Facebook. It goes wherever your friends go. If some of them are also co-workers, it goes to work with them, and with you.

And if part of his role was to represent the organization to its partners, clients, vendors, etc. and any of them were on his Facebook friends list, then his employers have a very real concern about whether he's actually embodying the values they require from his role.

If my private actions cost my employer the trust of our clients, then it really doesn't matter if the clients were mistaken in not trusting us; my employer has to seriously consider whether it can afford to keep me in a job where I lack the necessary trust to do the job.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:08 PM   #26
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I'm quite interested by the fact that is seems to be mainly Americans, from the "land of the free", who are supporting the employer in this. Is this because free speech in America is nowhere near as free as we're led to believe? Or is it that in this case they personally disagree with the employee, therefore they automatically argue against him?

Is there any contentious religious or political position that anyone should be able to express politely, in a semi-public forum, without fear of losing their job?

Rolfe.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:13 PM   #27
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I disagree with the employers actions, but if the man's facebook friends included a number of his colleagues (the article doesn't say), I can sort of see where they were coming from.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:13 PM   #28
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Professionals, especially those who deal with the public, have a duty to behave . . . well, professionally. A doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc. who goes around espousing opinions which might be considered controversial should expect repercussions from their clients and fellow professionals. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:16 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I'm quite interested by the fact that is seems to be mainly Americans, from the "land of the free", who are supporting the employer in this. Is this because free speech in America is nowhere near as free as we're led to believe? Or is it that in this case they personally disagree with the employee, therefore they automatically argue against him?

Is there any contentious religious or political position that anyone should be able to express politely, in a semi-public forum, without fear of losing their job?

Rolfe.
I expect many Americans are looking at it from the point of view of employment law in the US - where in many states you can be fired simply because the boss has decided he doesn't much like the look of you.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:17 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I'm quite interested by the fact that is seems to be mainly Americans, from the "land of the free", who are supporting the employer in this. Is this because free speech in America is nowhere near as free as we're led to believe? Or is it that in this case they personally disagree with the employee, therefore they automatically argue against him?

Is there any contentious religious or political position that anyone should be able to express politely, in a semi-public forum, without fear of losing their job?

Rolfe.
As an American, I side with the employer because the content of the speech is irrelevant. Every citizen enjoys the right to say his mind. As this guy did. Nobody pulled down his post or shot him. But having had his say he has no power to force anyone else to accept it, or act on it, or not act on it. You want to call your boss a dork? Go ahead, you have that right. And he has the right to fire you for it.

American ethos is against the notion of having your cake and eating it also. The right to free speech does not come with the right to immunity from reaction to your speech.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:19 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by xjx388 View Post
Professionals, especially those who deal with the public, have a duty to behave . . . well, professionally. A doctor, teacher, lawyer, etc. who goes around espousing opinions which might be considered controversial should expect repercussions from their clients and fellow professionals. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.
Well that is pretty much the end of this forum then considering there are many professionals here who have gathered to enjoy freedom of speech in a way that is very educational and provides a service of challenging way out theories and pseudoscience in a critical way.

If saying I am not happy about gay people marrying in churches is enough to get you the sack, is anyone on this forum safe from being sacked?
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:20 PM   #32
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You're right, Professor. It seems to be a case of Americans who believe anyone can be fired at the whim of their employer and they just have to suck it up. It seems it wouldn't really be any difference if the man had said he didn't like the colour blue, and his employer had decided that wasn't an acceptable opinion.

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Old 16th November 2012, 01:21 PM   #33
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I know it's kind of off-topic, but I think it's ridiculous that churches that actually want to conduct same-sex marriages are forbidden from doing so. And that heterosexual people are forbidden from getting civil partnerships.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:22 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
As an American, I side with the employer because the content of the speech is irrelevant. Every citizen enjoys the right to say his mind. As this guy did. Nobody pulled down his post or shot him. But having had his say he has no power to force anyone else to accept it, or act on it, or not act on it. You want to call your boss a dork? Go ahead, you have that right. And he has the right to fire you for it.

American ethos is against the notion of having your cake and eating it also. The right to free speech does not come with the right to immunity from reaction to your speech.
Does that apply to you if your employer decided he was not happy with what you just said there and sacked you?
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:22 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
Well that is pretty much the end of this forum then considering there are many professionals here who have gathered to enjoy freedom of speech in a way that is very educational and provides a service of challenging way out theories and pseudoscience in a critical way.

If saying I am not happy about gay people marrying in churches is enough to get you the sack, is anyone on this forum safe from being sacked?

That's pretty much what I was thinking. If you can be sacked for saying you don't like the colour blue, if your employer happens to think you ought to like the colour blue, we'd better all turn off our internet connections right now.

Rolfe.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:24 PM   #36
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Americans are very resistant to the notion that liberties can be threatened by non-state actors, despite the fact the employers do seem to wield a great deal of power over our lives. You'll even see people defining freedom as non-interference from the state.

I do think we'd be meaningfully freer if we didn't have worry about losing our jobs every time we voice a controversial opinion outside of the scope or context of employment.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:25 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Professor Yaffle View Post
I expect many Americans are looking at it from the point of view of employment law in the US - where in many states you can be fired simply because the boss has decided he doesn't much like the look of you.


I would worry that this issue opens up a gate of mischievous actions whereby employers or even competing ambitious employees can try and use irrelevant out of work activity as an excuse to work people they do not like over.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:29 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
I just assumed they demoted him because he had a facebook account. I'd support that wholeheartedly.
.
If the bloke said anything that connected his idiocy to the company, and used company resources... fire his ass.
Privately, from home, it's not anything the company has an interest in, if he didn't make a connection to the company.
"I work for Joe Lucas, the Prince of Darkness, and find same sex marriage yucky" might be one such.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:35 PM   #39
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Never friend or like or link to your co-workers or your business on Facebook.

Or perhaps just don't say anything stupid. Whichever's easier.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:40 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
Does that apply to you if your employer decided he was not happy with what you just said there and sacked you?
Of course. I would have recourse through the company itself, as such a firing would likely be against its own policy. But I would expect no remedy in law.
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