Social media: be careful what you post


Posted By on 17/03/16 at 4:54 PM

Posting about an employer while employed can impact on an employee being awarded their job back.

Social Media Rant- a tempting trap?

The impact that social media, and specifically what an employee posts on social media, is being more frequently considered in the employment context.

For example, since the “boom” of social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, clients have been seeking more advice regarding their employees’ social media behavior. There’s no doubt, that an employee posting negative thoughts about their employer in a public forum could tarnish the employer’s reputation and have implications for the employee, but what impact does this have on the employee after their employment has been terminated?

This was recently considered by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in a teacher’s unfair dismissal case. She made derogatory remarks about her employer on Facebook whilst still employed, and for multiple reasons, had her employment terminated. She lodged an unfair dismissal application, and her former employer tried to argue that they had valid reasons for terminating her, one of which was the posting of these comments on Facebook.

The Commission rejected the employer’s arguments, and found that (for multiple reasons) the employee had been unfairly dismissed. Importantly though, when it came to remedies, the FWC found that because the teacher had made these derogatory comments on Facebook, it would not be appropriate to “reinstate” her into her previous role in the workplace- in short, the damage to the relationship had already been done and the social media posts didn’t help.

See: Mary-Jane Anders v The Hutchins School [2016] FWC 241 (15 January 2016).

What does this mean?

  • Employers need to adopt a “proper process” for investigating social media posts. Just because an employee posts a negative comment on social media does not instantly justify their termination- it depends on the overall facts and employers should get proper advice before taking the matter further; and
  • Posting on social media can impact on an employee’s ability to get their job back, even if they have been found to be unfairly dismissed.
Chris Gianatti

Chris Gianatti Director

Chris worked for a number of years with Corrs before moving in-house to Telstra as HR Legal Counsel for the “Factory” (covering Telstra’s back of house operations including the field... Read More