Policies for Social Networking

There was a recent incident where and employee working for an Australian based IT company posted a number of very negative and damaging comments about his employer on his facebook page.  The employer is a public company and this information provided was deemed to be sensitive and could have had a very negative impact on the market’s perception of the employer. The employer had no idea as to what were their rights in this situation.

So, the big question is; how do I manage the employee’s use of social media. A recent case in Townsville featured a retailer and one of their employees who saw fit to post his frustrations about pay issues on their facebook page. The post was threatening and offensive. They did not directly referencing the company but members in their network were also employed by the company so could have been clearly identified.

The end result was that the company terminated the employee for gross misconduct and the employee subsequently lodged an unfair dismissal claim with Fair Work Australia. In the end, Fair Work ruled that the dismissal was fair and that the employees conduct warranted his dismissal for “misconduct” and the fact that even though the posts were made from home outside of working hours made no difference.

So what have we learnt from this case?

  1. It shows that employees cannot say what they like about their employers on social media.
  2. Employers may treat negative posts as a breach of discipline, and
  3. Highlighted the importance of the company providing policies which offer a clear guideline regarding what is and is not acceptable for posting on their social media accounts.

What should be in a Social Media Policy?

  1. Clearly define what you mean by ‘Social Media” and define the technology
  2. Clearly define who is deemed to be responsible for the post.
  3. Provide “Topic” guidelines which help the employee to understand what is acceptable.
  4. Provide “off limits” guidelines to what is deemed to be unacceptable and defamatory content