Companies beware: Inappropriate comments on social media may constitute as workplace bullying

Let’s face it… today’s world is filled with high tech devices and gadgets, as well as programs or applications that can keep everybody connected to everyone else.  People use social media to let their followers know what they’re up to, their thoughts about a topic, situation or even another person.  It may be a blessing to be technically close to other people, but it also comes with some disadvantages especially to employees who became a victim of a work place bully.

A recent case brought forward by a bullied employee to the Fair Work Commission, cited an act of unfriending in Facebook by a colleague as one of the bullying behaviors which helped to support her plea.   The Commission found that the act constituted bullying given the circumstances surrounding the case.  This serves as a reminder to other organizations to ensure that they inform their employees, as well as the leaders, on appropriate online behavior when it comes to managing their private social media accounts.

Anna Casellas, a partner at Clayton Utz, said that inappropriate social media behavior has played an increasing factor in several bullying and dismissal cases in the past three years.  Such cases presented to labor courts or tribunals considered cyber bullying at work and off work as relevant instances to support unfair dismissal claims or workplace bullying cases. However, Casellas clarified that the recent bullying case brought forward to the Fair Work Commission should not be taken as a precedent, wherein an act of Facebook unfriending is considered in itself a form of bullying.  It is still important to view and understand other extenuating and mitigating factors surrounding the case, before inappropriate online comments or behaviors may be considered as evidence of bullying.

To read more about the rise of improper social media behaviors in workplace bullying cases, click here.