Was it unfair dismissal to sack an employee for breaching the company’s social media policy? Which case won?
Airport employee dismissed for breach of social media policy
A man had been employed by a company for about fifteen months when he was dismissed for an alleged breach of the company’s social media policy.
The company ran a substantial operation providing logistics services and support to Australian airports. These services included baggage handling. The employee worked at an international airport in an Australian capital city.
Employee’s Facebook page created under an alias
The applicant was an enthusiastic Facebook poster, who said that he usually made a dozen or more posts daily. His Facebook page was created under an alias.
Although he used an alias, one word in the name was the same as a word in his own name, and he used his own photo. Among his postings were a couple which came to the attention of two of his supervisors, who were friends with him on Facebook.
Employee’s colleagues refer disturbing Facebook posts to management
The supervisors referred the postings to the management of the company. A total of five postings were initially relied on by the company as reasons for dismissing the employee, but the most prominent was one in which he had shared a news report of killings by the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, with a comment “we all support ISIS”.
The company suspended the employee with pay on becoming aware of the posts. It also notified the Australian Federal Police and assigned one of its HR employees to investigate its concerns. The employee was interviewed twice as part of these investigations.
Employee dismissed and lodges unfair dismissal claim with Fair Work Commission
The company took the view that the employee’s Facebook posts were in breach of its social media policy and reflected adversely on its reputation. At the end of the second meeting, the employee was advised that he would not be offered any further shifts, effectively entailing his dismissal.
The employee lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission, which had to decide whether or not his sacking did indeed constitute unfair dismissal.