Most employees use social media, whether it be Facebook or Twitter or the like. Many employees are under the misapprehension that, when they use social media in their private time, they are immune from disciplinary action from their employer. Further, many employers appear not to be conscious of the risk that inappropriate use of social media by an employee poses to their brand and to other employees.
The 2011 Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision in O’Keefe –v- Williams Muir’s Pty Ltd (The Good Guys) highlighted the dangers of social media. In this case, an employee posted, out of work hours, two comments on Facebook which related to other employees in the workplace and which were both offensive and threatening. The employee’s Facebook page was set to the maximum privacy settings and he had 70 “friends”, 11 of which were fellow employees. After becoming aware of the posts, his employer terminated his employment. The employee then brought an unfair dismissal claim in the FWC. The FWC found that the employee was in breach of certain provisions within the employer’s “Employee Handbook”, particularly those that related to refraining from using offensive language and threatening behaviour. The Commission relevantly stated as follows:
“The fact that the comments were made on the applicant’s (employee’s) home computer, out of work hours, does not make any difference. The comments were read by work colleagues and it was not long before Ms Taylor (an offended co-employee) was advised of what had occurred. The respondent (employer) has rightfully submitted …that the separation between home and work is now less pronounced than it once used to be.”
DO YOU HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY?
Today’s employers must have a social media policy, and employees should not think that what they do in their private time on social media, insofar as it relates to their employment, is immune from scrutiny and disciplinary action. If you are an employer and you don’t have a social media policy then please contact our office and we will guide you through the process.