By Clayton Payne
As the recent media attention into the alleged behaviour of a certain rugby league player has shown, individuals can pay a very high price indeed for antics on social media.
Not only can misbehaviour bring the individual in question into disrepute, but it can also sully the reputation of their employer in the marketplace.
Social media can be used inadvertently by employees to release commercially sensitive information to the public at large. A Facebook “status update”, revealing the location of an employee at work, has the potential in some instances to blow apart a prospective deal. In the realms of the professional services industry, such revelations also have the ability to breach client confidentiality.
Social media can also be potentially used by employees to bully or harass other employees. Even if this occurs away from work and outside of work hours, such behaviour can lead to employees making bullying complaints to the Fair Work Commission, or in some cases, sexual harassment complaints to the relevant statutory bodies, leading to potential liability for the employer.
Social media can therefore open up a Pandora’s Box of issues for employers.
As Commissioner Roberts of the Fair Work Commission in Stutsel v. Linfox Pty. Limited found in relation to an employer not having a social media policy:
“In the current electronic age, this is not sufficient and many large companies have published detailed social media policies and taken pains to acquaint their employees with those policies. Linfox did not.”
This is an issue which affects large corporates and SMEs alike. It is therefore prudent for all employers to have appropriate policies and employee training in place. A well drafted policy can also assist an employer in avoiding a successful unfair dismissal claim, should they seek to terminate an employee’s employment based on relevant misbehaviour.
Mills Oakley can assist with developing such policies and in providing effective training.
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