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Social Media is risky 'HR' business

25 July 2014

Fail social media

This article will provide you with tips to ensure:

(a)    that you are Fair Work compliant if you do need to dismiss an employee due to social media misuse; and

(b)   your business is protected from defamatory comments and damaged relationships with employees, clients and the world at large.

How can social media damage your business?

Poorly managed social media use could result in:

  1. Confidential information being shared to the public
  2. An employee bringing the business' reputation into disrepute
  3. Bullying and sexual harassment claims being made by employees about co-workers
  4. Decreased productivity because of excessive social media use during work hours
  5. Damaged relationships between the employees, and the business and clients
  6.  Legal claims being brought against the business for disciplining an employee for social media use, particularly when used out of office hours.


What is inappropriate use of social media?

The below examples from real cases were determined inappropriate behaviour:

  • An employee posted onto his Facebook account from his home computer

"[expletive] work still haven't managed to [expletive] pay me correctly. [Expletive] are going down tomorrow".

It was established that the comments constituted sexual harassment and threatening conduct towards the payroll lady.

  • An employee posted on Myspace about their employer referring to them as "witch hunters" and "corrupt" and revealed confidential information about the company.
  • A manager joked on his Facebook account that: 

"On behalf of all the staff at The Credit Corp Group I would like to welcome our newest victim of butt rape, Jack Hoye. I'm looking Forward to sexually harassing you behind the stationary [sic] cupboard big boy."

This was considered to be "grossly offensive and disgusting" by the Commissioner.

How do you avoid such instances?

Employers can take numerous steps to prevent the negative impact of inappropriate social media use.

  1. Develop a social media policy and train your employees so that they fully understand their  responsibilities. The policy should have strict guidelines stating inappropriate social media use and clearly set out consequences of policy breaches i.e. disciplinary action or termination.
  2. Due to the rapid changes social media and relating definitions, it is highly recommended social media policy is reviewed annually to ensure its continuing relevance.  Report those changes to your employees regularly.
  3. Once you have your policy in place and an employee is suspected to have breached the policy you will need to:
  • act promptly if you become aware of any alleged  breaches of the policy;
  • investigate those breaches meticulously;
  • consider the connection between the employee's breach and any potential damage it could have or did cause the business; and
  • consider the employee's response, before making decisions regarding disciplinary action.  This will ensure that you are Fair Work complaint.


If in doubt, seek advice from an expert at HR Business solutions by emailing the author at

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