Unfair Dismissal Claims for Social Media Breaches

The Fair Work Commission’s role in dealing with unfair dismissal claims on the grounds of termination for breaching a company social media policy is becoming very frustrating for our industrial umpire, in more ways than one.  As social media sites continue to rise in popularity, so does the expectation on society to understand the good, the bad, and everything in between regarding social media.  We have observed the FWC are showing noticeably less leniency towards employees who have the argument that they were ignorant of how social media sites work.  This last point would also be particularly difficult to prove for those employees who were found to have an active account on Facebook.  At the same time, some employees believe that any conditions relating to social media usage should only apply during work hours, and what one may post out of hours is their own business. Unfortunately this is not a strong argument either, particularly in today’s context.      

With social media sites continuing to cause many a headache for employers, it is imperative for business owners to develop and implement a company social media usage policy, where such a policy may not already exist.  At the same time, it would also be of value for employers to run a training session on the company’s social media policy and have such training include an overview of how the more common social media sites work.  As with any company policy, the content should be clear in how it should be interpreted, reasonable, and most of all lawful.

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