AFTER a long day at work keeping face and kissing butt, it can be a relief to get home, turn off the proverbial filter and relax.
But in the age of social media, public and private time is blurred.
A questionable tweet, post or comment while sitting on your couch at night can cost your job whether it is about work or not.
That was the experience this year of one man who publicly shared a screen shot of a woman’s Tinder profile with a snide remark.
After the post attracted nasty and threatening comments towards the woman, it went viral with the hashtag “sexual violence won’t be silenced” and ended with the man being fired.
The content was not related to any workplace, employer or company and was posted outside of work hours but Johnathan Mamaril, principal and director of employment law specialists NB Lawyers, says this does not matter.
“The main rationale behind the dismissal of (this man) would have been the ability to bring the company’s reputation into disrepute, whether it was realized or not,” Mamaril says.
“The mere perception has the damaging effect already.”
Mamaril says all employers should have a social media policy but especially if they have a reliance or presence on social media, if they actively advertise through social media, if employees identifies themselves on social media as working for the company, or if employees use social media as a marketing tool for their job.
“Employers can take action against an employee for inappropriate social media use as long as they have a social media policy in place and have some type of training regarding the policy,” he says.
Another recent case was hotel manager Michael Nolan who lost his job after calling feminist commentator Clementine Ford a “sl**” on Facebook.
Ford shared a screen shot of their interaction to her 80,000 Facebook followers and tagged Nolan’s employer.
Fair Work Commission commissioner Leigh Johns says the rules are not new but rather old rules being applied in the social media context.
“If you had two work colleagues fighting with each other at a work social function or in private time and it might tarnish their employer, it might be caught by these rules,” he says.
“If you’re on social media saying nasty things about your boss, you can imagine that’s going to cause problems.
“You should imagine anything you post may end up in front of someone you don’t want to see it.”
Johns says most unfair dismissal cases he sees that stem from social media policies are unsuccessful.
“(There was) one case where the employee had some pretty terrible things on Facebook of an anti-Muslim nature but he was able to establish, because of his age as an older person, that he had no understanding of how Facebook worked and security settings,” Johns says.
“He had no idea this was a public forum and thought he was communicating between himself and his friends.”
But that would be a difficult defence to use anymore as Facebook has become so widespread.
“I wouldn’t hold that case up to give hope to people who post silly things on Facebook,” he says.
Most dismissals are a result of work-related content being posted online.
Johns recalls an employee who went on a Facebook rant after he was not paid the correct amount.
He broke the employer’s policy to always be polite and courteous, so was fired.
In another case, a young motor mechanic apprentice posted photos that were critical of his employer’s customer.
It got back to the customer and the employee was fired.
“He made a silly mistake and lost his job,” Johns says.
“We still see (social media cases) coming through and I’m still surprised people make these types of errors.”
Social media is not only a tricky issue for workers job seekers need to be equally careful about what they post online.
A quick Google search will be part of the recruitment process for many future employers.
Career coach Rebecca Fraser says she Googles herself all the time.
“I want to know what others can find out about me and ensure that I am happy that this is what they are seeing,” she says.
“I look at all of the different selections, such as images and scholarly articles, just in case.
“I also specify my search down to my local region as well as globally.”
The founder of Rebecca Fraser Consulting shares her top tips for managing an online profile:
- Ensure all personal information remains private
- Be aware all opinions shared on open forums online are accessible long term, not just today
- Never appear derogatory, negative or rude towards past employers, colleagues or managers
- Be aware of what others are posting about you or images you are being tagged in online
- Regularly review yourself by Googling your name.
- Keep your personal and professional lives separate.
Fraser says people who find content about themselves online that may be detrimental to their career should contact the owner of the website and/or owner of the information and request to have it removed.