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Be careful what you say on facebook! – By Lauren Magasdi – Lawyer

Facebook, twitter and other public forums are examples of avenues available to employers to ‘screen’ employees or potential employees and allowing in some cases, the employer to terminate the employment based on disparaging remarks.

Some members of society who feel the need to vent to friends and family using a public forum such as twitter and facebook may find their position within a company terminated. In the last 6 months, several cases of this type of termination have been reported on public media forums as a warning to users to be careful what they post. Some of the most popular reported is that of a UK Travel Agent who posted an update about a fellow colleague calling her a ‘brown-nosing cow’ on facebook, a Newcastle bank employee who was whinging about customers who attended her financial institution, and a British woman who started her post by claiming she ‘hated her job’.

As a result of the above, some places of employment are now imposing restrictions on employees who make comments on social websites, even if posted in their personal hours, which may give rise to immediate termination of their employment.

Unless someone has strict privacy settings, any and all comments made by an employee are available to the world at large.

Employers have also started reviewing applicant’s facebook pages prior to their potential employment in order to ascertain the ‘type’ of the applicant. In some cases, employment is not awarded based on certain photos of the applicant, comments made on the facebook page or the information published about the applicant.

A warning however to employers – several cases have come before the courts on behalf of employees claiming unfair dismissal resulting from comments made on sites such as facebook. Although some unsuccessful, one such case that was successful in claiming unfair dismissal is that of a Victorian hairdresser where one of the four reasons for dismissing her was due to the comments posted on facebook. The hairdresser was awarded compensation following her unfair dismissal.

Although this article is mainly about employment, comments made of a defamatory nature could also pose as an expensive lesson.

We have also seen through the precedent case in Victoria that persons can now be served through these public forums with intervention orders, statements of claim and other such court proceedings.
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Barry van Heerden

Barry van Heerden

  • Partner
  • Property and Commercial
  • Direct line: (07) 5506 8248
  • Mobile: 0403 452 455