A trans employee has been sacked after allegedly trolling a free speech campaigner, branding them a ‘nazi’ and ‘woman beater’ online.
Lynsay Watson sent a free speech campaigner, Harry Miller, over 1200 messages online over the course of 18 months, where she branded his campaign group Fair Cop as “domestic terrorists” for having views on gender identity that were “in direct contradiction to her own”.
On its website, Fair Cop describes itself as “a group of individuals who have come together over shared concerns about police attempts to criminalise people for expressing opinions that don’t contravene any laws.” Miller, a former officer in Humberside, was reportedly investigated after tweeting a gender critical poem.
Watson, a police officer, initially sent messages from her own personal account before being warned by a senior member of her team that she should troll anonymously because Miller, formerly in the force, had made a formal complaint to Leicestershire police.
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In response, Watson reportedly set up four different accounts with fake identities "in an attempt to evade identification and in doing so she provided false information” about herself.
Watson said her messages were her acting on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and that the reason she was messaging anonymously was to gather evidence about whether there were unknown officers also a part of Fair Cop.
One of the accounts she created was a fake Home Office advisor on policing and transgender issues who had a masters in legal studies, while from another account she claimed to be a retired officer from a different force.
A solicitor on the case, Liz Briggs, called Watson’s messages “derogatory and abusive” and that she could have expressed her perspective in a different way.
Watson admitted to gross conduct and breaching standards of professional behaviour, but denied breaching standards relating to honesty and integrity. She was subsequently sacked from her role.
Staff behaviour outside of work
You can never really know, or control, what staff do outside of work, or how they behave. But do employers really have any right to place restrictions on what staff do in their own free time?
Clive Dobbin, partner at Paris Smith Solicitors, told HR Grapevine that employers do have rights to restrict staff from behaving badly outside of work: "Employers can place restrictions on what someone does in their own time if such activities could bring their employer into disrepute.
"It comes down to whether the instruction issued by the employer is reasonable, as if staff were seen to breach that impartiality it could be perceived to affect their ability to perform their duties whilst working.”
All employers want their staff to behave acceptably both inside and outside of work, after all employees are an extension of your organisation and steward of your company. Therefore, businesses should make it crystal clear what their policies and expectations are of staff when they join the company.