Social Media and the Workplace: Can You Get Fired for What You Post on Your Personal Account?
Most people nowadays have at least one social media account. Some people even have five or six. What was once considered your personal life can now be broadcast to the world without a second thought. This also means if you have a bad day at work or want to rant about the boss, the whole world can see it. In some cases, however, this may mean you could be dismissed.
This has become increasingly common in recent times, especially, in the case of Rugby Union player Israel Folau. Folau posted a meme stating “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” are all going to hell. Folau refused to remove the post and has subsequently been stood down from all playing duties by Rugby Australia until further notice.
So What Does This Tell us About Social Media?
Depending on the nature of your employment contract and what terms you sign, there is a good chance you could be stood down for posting inappropriate conduct online or critiquing your organization and employers. Not only is this type of conduct unprofessional, but it reflects badly on the business. If your views are offensive or somewhat don’t align with the business, your employee doesn’t want to risk this impacting their reputation.
This was the case of Folau, as Rugby Australia didn’t want their brand or image being associated or thought to be endorsing Folau’s beliefs.
Another current High Court case surrounds similar problems in which an employee of the public service was stood down for tweeting anonymously about her employer, in her own time. Michaela Banerji claimed this was a breach of her right to political speech and she should be entitled to post her opinions while not at work. While Banerji was successful with this case under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal due to the fact she was posting anonymously, her employer has appealed the decision to the High Court where it is currently being heard.
How do I Know if What I’m Saying Could Breach my Employment Contract?
It is increasingly common for businesses to have a social media policy that you must read and sign prior to starting with the business. If a specific policy is not in place, it is likely terms within the employment agreement will either stipulate social media use or make reference to negatively impacting the businesses reputation. Even if the terms are unclear or do not specifically make reference to posting on social media, it is likely this type of action would come under some type of clause relating to business brand or reputation.
If you are unsure about the content you want to post, you should consider: “would my employer be happy with me saying this?” or “could this get me in trouble in any way?” If you are unsure, don’t post it!