A Blackburn civil servant who was fired over a series of tweets directed at Islamophobic public figures like Donald Trump, Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins is set to receive a £38,000 plus payout from The Department of Work and Pensions.
Ayub Patel was fired by the DWP after he posted the tweets from a personal social media account. He was employed at there between December 1991 and December 2017, most recently as a work coach at the Blackburn Jobcentre.
According to the organisation’s behavioural policy, civil servants must not signal any political affiliation, and must “avoid making any kind of personal attack or tasteless or offensive remarks to individuals or groups” in person or on social media accounts.
On 24 October 2017, the DWP began investigating an anonymous complaint that Patel had breached the standards of the social media policy in tweets from his personal Twitter account which included messages referencing far-right extremist Tommy Robinson, US President Donald Trump and “white male Christian” gun owners.
Patel attended an investigation interview with a trade union representative, and was shown nine tweets from his account that contained “tasteless offensive, racist and political” comments, which it was said breached the policy.
Patel accepted that some of the comments were offensive, but said that during a previous security presentation a trainer had indicated that if nothing on a personal Twitter account associated the owner with the DWP, it did not matter what was tweeted.
Mr Patel’s claim for unfair dismissal, heard by a Manchester employment tribunal, succeeded in part, though his compensation award was reduced by 50 per cent as his actions were said to have had a bearing on his departure.
Employment judge Carol Porter said: “The comments made by the claimant on his public Twitter account were offensive, some were derogatory of the current government, and showed allegiance to a particular political party. They were, as he admitted, (a) breach of the standards of behaviour and civil service code.”
But the judge accepted Mr Patel, who had worked for the service for 16 years, had been acting under a “genuine misunderstanding” regarding his responsibilities on social media.
Judge Porter ruled that he was entitled to compensation totalling £25,646 and a basic award of £5,990. For his breach of contract claim, he was given £7,109.
The tribunal found that Mr Patel was sacked not because his tweets were about high-profile political figures, but because they broke the civil service code of conduct by revealing his political sympathies.