Can you discipline an employee for out-of-hours social media use

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Can you discipline an employee for out-of-hours social media use

Following Blog is an article written by Jessica Oldfield who is the Editor at Workplace Bulletin. The article was discovered by CA Managements HR Manager Danny Ramsawmy and he found that this may be beneficial to read as many do not know how your personal life can effect your work life.

Can you discipline an employee for out-of-hours social media use?

Wednesday, 15th January, 2014

By Jessica Oldfield

In today’s Workplace Bulletin:

  • Can you discipline an employee for out-of-hours social media use?

Dear Reader,

To begin today, I have a little story to tell you…

Joe Bloggs called in sick for work last Friday. Joe is Facebook friends with his supervisor, Terry. When Terry checked his newsfeed during his lunch break, he found the following post from Joe…

“Just meetin up with my mates for a few frothies! WooHoo. Let the weekend begin :P”

Obviously, Joe Bloggs wasn’t really sick.

Terry is within his rights to performance-manage Joe, or give him a warning, for pulling a ‘sickie’.

People are performance-managed every day for things like pulling sickies. But it often appears to be trickier when social media is involved. And usually, whether misconduct has been committed or not is not so clear cut as in Joe Bloggs’ case.

And what conduct on social media warrants discipline? Swear words, explicit photos… these are things that so many people have on their Facebook profile. And while a boss may not like it, does that mean that they are really allowed to discipline an employee for it?

To discipline or dismiss an employee for out-of-hours misconduct (whether it is on social media or not), you must be sure of two things:

  • the employee’s misconduct is connected with their employment in a clear and relevant way; and
  • the misconduct has caused damage (or has the potential to cause damage) to your business, e.g. loss of clients, damage to reputation, etc.

Below are a couple of real cases that demonstrate when you are able to discipline an employee for out-of-hours social media use…

Case law #1

In O’Keefe v The Good Guys (2011), The Good Guys fired Mr O’Keefe when it learned he made threatening and derogatory comments on his Facebook page about the business and one of his colleagues.

Mr O’Keefe lodged an unfair dismissal claim. He claimed his dismissal was unfair because he did not name his employer or the colleague he was referring to in his status update. Also, his Facebook privacy settings were set to the maximum possible and the reason h