The separation between professional and personal life – where is the line?

The distinction between professional and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred after some recent decisions handed down by the Fair Work Commission.

One of these decisions stated that “unfriending” a colleague on Facebook was part of a pattern of unreasonable behaviour that constituted workplace bullying. It is important however, to understand that it was not just the unfriending of a colleague in isolation that led to this decision. There were a series of allegations of bullying and unreasonable behaviour in this case that were said to have occurred over a two year period.

Likewise, an employee who posted an abusive rant against his employer on his personal Facebook page for allegedly repeatedly making mistakes with his wages was dismissed from his employment. The employee in question had supposedly blocked the manager from being able to read his comments but his post was still able to be read by eleven of his co-workers.

He lodged an unsuccessful claim for unfair dismissal with the Fairwork Commission but the Commission upheld the dismissal and ruled that his behaviour constituted serious misconduct in the circumstances.

In this digital age it is important for all employees to understand that their words and actions on social media can be given the same weight as something said in person, over the telephone or in an email. What you believe to be private actions and comments may not be viewed in that way by your employer.

Unfortunately, bullying and harassment claims are on the increase and constitute a significant number of complaints to the Fair Work Commission, as are claims of all types involving the use or misuse of various types of social media.

If you feel you’ve been subjected to bullying and harassment in the workplace or have had an issue around social media in your workplace, contact Peter Moore on (02) 4324 7699 for a no-cost, friendly and confidential chat about your options.