What is appropriate online behaviour?

A recent case of online workplace bullying has highlighted the need for businesses to ensure that employees understand what is and what is not appropriate online behaviour.

With social media featuring in an increasing number of bullying and dismissal cases over the past few years, it is clear that the distinction between people’s private lives and work lives is still not clear.

Social media takes on a new form when used for personal reasons in the workplace or as a representative of a business. Both uses entail different implications. Now, even online behaviour that is deemed inappropriate that takes place outside of the workplace can be included in the ruling of Australian courts.

For example, an employer could take action against an employee if the employee made comments on their private social media account that can be considered as damaging to the business’s or the employer’s reputation.

On September 23, the Fair Work Commission found that a Tasmanian real estate agent was bullied by her employer when the employer ‘unfriended’ her on Facebook and failed to say good morning to her.

The commission’s decision highlights the fact that a range of behaviours now exist that can be considered as ‘workplace bullying’. The decision also serves as a helpful reminder to employers of the importance of implementing a comprehensive anti-bullying policy in the workplace, as well as to ensure that employees understand their obligations in regards to their use of social media.

Cristy Houghton