It has emerged that Norbert Dentressangle, taken over last month by US firm XPO Logistics, was ordered in March to pay a former employee more than £8,000 for unfair dismissal, after sacking him last year for what his employer deemed was a sexually suggestive picture posted on his Facebook page.

In an employment tribunal hearing in Glasgow, judge Robert Gall was told that Faisal Auld, a chargehand at ND’s Falkirk DC, had been sacked by site manager Margaret Farquharson after the discovery on his Facebook page in June 2014 of a photograph in which he and a work colleague appeared in ND-branded polo shirts at the site.

In it, Auld holding his colleague “in a headlock in a sexually compromising position” and a speech bubble added to the picture with a further sexual reference alluding to Santa Claus.

A disciplinary procedure subsequently led to Auld being dismissed by Farquharson.

During the course of the tribunal appeal, it emerged that the picture had been in place on Auld’s Facebook page for more than five years without generating any complaints. It also emerged that ND had no specific social network policy in place for staff.

Although Auld was guilty of some wrongdoing, the judge said “no reasonable employer acting reasonably would have dismissed the claimant” for the picture and also suggested that Farquharson’s shock at discovering the photograph ought to have ruled her out as the decision-maker at the subsequent disciplinary hearing.

Douglas Jaap of Digby Brown, which represented Auld at the tribunal hearing, later stressed that the lack of social medial policy at ND meant it was “unfair and unreasonable” for Auld to have been dismissed from a job he had held for a number of years.

“Employers need to not only have a clear social media policy in place, but communicate it to their workforce,” he said.

At the time of publication, XPO Logistics HR director Mark Simmons said it had “no wish to comment extensively on the matter” but added: “Our social media expectations and standards were incorporated within our employee disciplinary policy.

“In light of the tribunal outcome, we now have a specific standalone social media policy for the UK.”