We have all seen it, there is always that one friend on Facebook who vents about everything. As an employer, it can really make you concerned. Is your reputation going to be damaged? Will you even know about what is being said, or be unable to come back from it?
As a point of comfort for employers, there is a substantial risk to employees that make comments on social media about their employment. It may amount to a defamation action, or in some circumstances, a breach of confidence. You may even find that the comments are a breach of the employment contract, whether explicitly in the contract or in another policy referred to in the contract. For this reason, employees often realise that they must not discuss their work or frustrations of work in a public forum such as Facebook.
That being said, there are always those that stray from the grain and are not deterred, or do not realise what is inappropriate. Campbell v Qube Ports P/L is one example of this. The employee, Mr. Campbell posted on Facebook that the chairman of Qube was a “pig” and made other derogatory comments about his supervisor. Should it come as a surprise that Mr. Campbell was laid off shortly after?
Mr. Campbell certainly was surprised, as he subsequently commenced unfair dismissal proceedings against Qube.
The Fair Work Commission determined that the dismissal was not unfair. Mr. Campbell’s employment contract referred to a social media policy, which determined that all employees would be polite when talking about the employer on social media, and not to damage Qube’s reputation.
Does it really need to be said? Don’t abuse the boss on social media! If you are the employer, make sure your employment contract allows you to terminate the employment of a disrespectful employee. You want to ensure your contract informs what behavior is not tolerated, the grounds for immediate termination of employment, and the guidelines for discussing the business in society. A confidentiality clause is also a wise inclusion.
- Article by Sam Shakibaie @ MADSEN LAW