Human Capital Magazine – Australia – Social media changing the game, but not the rules, for employers

Employers that take disciplinary action against an employee for posting damaging or inappropriate comments on social media sites such as Facebook can face legal – and potentially costly – ramifications if they do so without following basic workplace laws and procedures.

According to Jenny Inness, senior associate at Harmers Workplace Lawyers, employers should first consider whether the employee’s conduct is sufficiently connected to the employment relationship before taking action in response to erring employees in the digital sphere.

Inness said that an employer’s right to take action for ‘after hours’ conduct has always been a complex issue. “It’s a tricky balance between an employee’s right to privacy and an employer’s right to protect its organisation,” she said.

She added that an employer is permitted to take action against an employee (including dismissal) because of their ‘after hours’ (or ‘private’) activities if the conduct is connected with the relationship of employment and has serious enough implications for the employer.

Instances where employers may have reasonable grounds for disciplinary action against an employee include social media posts that:

  • * harm or damage the company’s reputation and business interests
  • * disclose confidential information to others outside the business
  • * harass or bully work colleagues
  • * disparage customers or clients of the business
  • The issue that isn’t raised in this article is the monitoring of employees social media activity by employers – when does this cross the line?