Convergence of the professional and private

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Image Source: Facebook

A person’s professional and private life are no longer individually defined. These two aspects of our lives are converging and this is generating issues within the work force which once was not an issue.

Australia’s Fair Work Commission have stated that social media is an issue within the workplace as ‘A Facebook post, even though posted outside of working hours, does not cease to exist once work recommences.’ (Fitzgerald vs Smith 2010). This content once posted on Facebook can then continually be accessed and further comments can continuously be added to this content.

Consequently, employees should clearly be cautious of their posts on their private social media profiles as shown in two cases which went before the The Fair Work Commission; O’Keefe and Williams Muris 2011 and Fitzgerald vs Smith 2010. Both defendant’s in these cases had posted a derogatory status regarding their work managers and work place which resulted in termination of the defendant’s. Both cases, however, saw different outcomes. O’Keefe and Williams Muris 2011 saw The Fair Work Commission to declare this was a fair dismissal as the defendant did not attempt to shield his content from other employees. Conversely, in Fitzgerald vs Smith 2010 the Fair Work Commission found the defendant to have been un-fairly terminated from their position as their status did not note the company they worked for but merely the industry.

It seems to be an area of wide interpretation of what employees can and cannot post and depends on who can see their post and how detailed their profile is regarding their employer. Though we are now seeing companies attempting to restrict their employee’s through their social media policies as seen by the Commonwealth Bank and now the Australian Government.

The Commonwealth Bank attempted to enforce a social media policy that detailed that an employee must inform their managers of any online content they see from other employees and non-employees that negatively portray the bank (Hannan 2011). We are seeing a similar case with the Federal Australian Government attempting to implement a similar policy for public servants which states all public servants must inform their employer if another employee is criticising the Government or Government policies (Mannheim 2014).

This demonstrates that some employers are attempting to take a tougher stance with social media policies to protect the reputation of their company; though some of these policies, particularly of the Federal Government and The Commonwealth Bank, are perhaps breaching freedom of speech for employees.

References:

Damian O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys—unfair dismissal case, 2011.

Hannan, E 2011, ‘Ban’s Facebook sacking threat’, Weekend Australian, viewed 30th April 2014, < http://ezproxy.uow.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/849285466?accountid=15112>

Mannheim, M 2014 , ‘ Public Service’s leaked guide to dobbing on colleagues is now ‘secret’’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 30th April, < http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/public-services-leaked-guide-to-dobbing-on-colleagues-is-now-secret-20140408-36aii.html >

Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design—unfair dismissal case, 2010.

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