‘Secular atheist’ train conductor who celebrated pubs reopening by declaring he didn’t want to live in an ‘alcohol-free caliphate’ wins unfair dismissal claim

  • Jeremy Sleath, 63, was sacked last year after a strongly-worded Facebook post
  • The West Midlands Trains conductor protested pub closures in lockdown
  • He said Britain must not act like ‘Muslim alcohol-free caliphate’ just to beat Covid
  • Mr Sleath won the unfair dismissal claim but his post was judged to be ‘reckless’ 

A railway conductor who celebrated pubs reopening after lockdown by saying we cannot live in an ‘alcohol-free caliphate’ to beat Covid has won an unfair dismissal claim.

Jeremy Sleath, 63, a self-declared ‘secular atheist’, was sacked for the Facebook post in which he said Britain should not copy Islamic State’s drink ban.

A tribunal ruled this week that West Midlands Trains did not follow proper procedure when it decided to fire him for gross misconduct after a complaint of racism.

But employment judge Geraldine Flood dismissed claims that his rights to freedom of speech had been violated and called the post ‘reckless’.

Jeremy Sleath, 63, a self-declared ‘secular atheist’, was sacked for a Facebook post he made in July 2020 in which he said Britain should not copy Islamic State’s drink ban. He wrote: ‘Thank f*** our pubs open up today. ‘We cannot let our way of life become like some sort of Muslim alcohol-free caliphate just to beat Covid-19.’

A tribunal ruled this week that West Midlands Trains did not follow proper procedure when it decided to fire him for gross misconduct after a complaint of racism (file pic: West Midlands Railway train in Birmingham)

Despite acknowledging the decision to sack him was harsh, she said it was reasonable to conclude his post was racist.

She said: ‘Taking action in relation to that post (including dismissing the claimant) to protect its employees was in these circumstances a reasonable step to take.’

But she ruled he was unfairly dismissed because the train company did not handle the appeals procedure properly.

Mr Sleath posted the comment on his personal Facebook page in July 2020. 

He wrote: ‘Thank f*** our pubs open up today. 

‘We cannot let our way of life become like some sort of Muslim alcohol-free caliphate just to beat Covid-19.’

He later clarified that he meant to write IS instead of caliphate and said he was not anti-Muslim.

Because he tagged his local branch of the RMT union in the post, the tribunal found the remarks could be linked to his job.

Mr Sleath, of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, told the employment tribunal in Birmingham that his ‘secular, pluralist and atheist views’ were as important as a ‘religious person’s beliefs’.

The Birmingham tribunal said any compensation – to be determined at a later hearing – should be reduced by 60 per cent to reflect Mr Sleath’s ‘culpability in his own dismissal’.

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