Social Media and Employment Policies

Social media is now an integral part of many people’s lives, and it is becoming imperative for employers to establish a social media policy. The role of a social media policy is to provide guidance for employees so they can stay out of trouble, and also to provide a firm basis for disciplinary action. People consider their private lives and work lives to be two separate entities – using social media as an outlet for personal thoughts. However, much of the time employees overlook the importance of maintaining a private and professional online identity (Lupardi, 2014). There are an infinite amount of circumstances where employees have been dismissed because of something they’ve posted online – in many cases the dismissal has been appealed and considered unfair, because of never signing a social media policy. For example, three cases by the Fair Work Commission of employee dismissals in relation to social media use are:
Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design—unfair dismissal case, 2010.

Damian O’Keefe v Troy Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A The Good Guys—unfair dismissal case, 2011.

Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel–appeal in 2012 against a decision overturning a finding of unfair dismissal.

Faizah Imani from Global Post (2014) states that there are currently no laws that prevent employers from looking through any social media profiles you have. Many companies have monitoring policies that are in place when using their computer or wifi. This aims to prevent employees from posting anything about work on their profiles, and allows employers to monitor browsing history and web use. Monitoring policies are a reasonable tactic to use within the workplace. However, there have been cases of companies threatening employees with disciplinary action, including dismissal, with regard to personal social media use in the home – out of work hours. In 2011, The Commonwealth Bank in Australia insisted that employees must report any criticism of the bank they view on personal social media channels, and then assist with the investigation and removal of the “inappropriate” material. Subsequent to employee complaints and concerns, The Finance Sector Union demanded the bank suspend this social media policy, stating that it was an unfair restriction to individuals’ freedom of expression (Hannan, 2011). Social media culture at this time was relatively new, booming and misunderstood by The Commonwealth Bank – I feel that their social media policy was a desperate act to harness and manage the content posted on social media platforms, which is unfair and naïve. Social media policies are put in place to protect the professional reputation of both the employer and employee, meaning that it should be a fair and reasonable for both parties.
Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.03.52 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.36 PMPoor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify 2014

If your workplace does not have a policy, a general rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of a newspaper with your name, don’t post it. Particularly when seeking employment (or currently employed), it is important to be mindful of the content you post online – simply DON’T post negative things about colleagues or employers. In addition, you never know when a photo you’ve uploaded, or religious/political/sexual comment could offend a potential or current employer. Legally, employers can view your online profiles, and will often use this as a means for a “background check” before hiring new employees (Imani, 2014).

References:

Hannan, E 2011, ‘Bank threatens staff with sack over social media comments’, Australian, 5 February, viewed 10 May 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/bank-threatens-staff-with-sack-over-social-media-comments/story-e6frg6nf-1226000454432&gt;

Imani, F 2014, ‘Can Employers Check Your Facebook profile?’, Global Post, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/can-employers-check-facebook-profile-1084.html&gt;

Ritter, K 2014, Facing the Consequences: Poor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify, weblog post, viewed 12 May 2014, <https://storify.com/Katie_M_Ritter/facing-the-consequences-poor-social-media-choices&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2010, Miss Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2010fwa7358.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2011, Damian O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa5311.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2012, Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa8444.htm&gt;