Staff unfriending each other on facebook amounts to workplace bullying.
Social media can be a bit of a legal minefield, I became aware of a case recently where there were two ladies, we’ll call them Anna and Betty who had a massive argument at work. Anna decided that this was it, she didn’t wanna keep up with the argument. So, when they left the office, Anna went home and unfriended Betty on Facebook. Now this happened at home after working hours, but it happened in relation to an argument that they’d had at work.
Betty was very unhappy, she went back to work the next day and she complained to her supervisor. She said that Anna was bullying her by unfriending her on Facebook, so the supervisor had a reaction that perhaps I might have had, which basically was, “Get over yourself, if she doesn’t want you to be her friend on Facebook it’s not my problem. Facebook’s a private thing, here we are at work and what happens in your personal relationships, is not something for the employer to get involved in.” Betty was not satisfied so she decided to file a complaint at the Employment Relations, at Fair Work, Australia.
The complaint had a very interesting outcome: Fair Work Australia, blamed the employer for the situation and fined the employer tens of thousands of dollars, for allowing one staff member to unfriend another staff member on Facebook. They said that this was workplace bullying and the employer needs to have a policy in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen. I suppose for you as business owners, the thing to take home from this, is it’s firstly essential to have a social media policy within your business.
If you have employees or contractors working for you, then you need to have some rules of engagement as to what’s gonna happen on social media, even in situations where the person’s social media is not related to your business, because their online activity can still affect you. So you need to have a policy where, perhaps if you have an argument at work with a fellow employee, to discuss it with a supervisor before unfriending or something like that. As employers, it’s important to understand that even though Facebook is a private thing, there were no posts relating to the fight that had happened at work, the unfriending was just an attempt to de escalate the situation, but still the employer was held to be liable in allowing workplace bullying. Hopefully this makes you think about the place of social media in business, my name is Cathryn Warburton and I am The Legal Lioness.