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When social media isn’t so social

Bullying & HarassmentSeptember 28, 2015

When social media isn’t so social (Last Updated On: September 28, 2015)

Australian workplaces are being urged to update their social media policies following a decision by the workplace tribunal, which found that unfriending someone on Facebook was a contributing factor to workplace bullying.

Rachael Roberts, a Tasmanian estate agent at VIEW Launceston, complained to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in February this year that her colleague Lisa Bird was bullying her. As a result she was suffering from anxiety and depression.  Ms Roberts accused Bird of showing a “lack of emotional maturity” for having the nerve not to say “good morning” to her and subsequently deleting her from Facebook.

In one incident Mrs Bird allegedly called Ms Roberts ‘a naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher’ after Roberts phoned the agency’s Principal, Mr Bird (husband of Mrs Bird), asking why none of her listed properties were on display in the agency window.

Ms Roberts cited nearly 20 run- ins with Mrs Bird where she felt belittled and humiliated. Following one particular meeting where Mrs Bird pointed at her, told her to sit down and prevented her from leaving by standing in front of the door, Ms Roberts said it occurred to her to check Facebook for a comment about the incident. However, she found that Mrs Bird had decided to delete her altogether.

The FWC Deputy President Nicholas Wells stated that Mrs Bird’s behaviour showed a lack of maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour. He stated that Mrs Bird’s ‘schoolgirl’ comment was evidence of her inappropriate dealings with Ms Roberts.

“I am of the view that Mrs Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms Roberts when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like Ms Roberts and would prefer not to have to deal with her,” Deputy Wells stated, “I am satisfied the behaviour carried out by Mrs Bird fulfils the prerequisite criteria of The Fair Work Act and therefore constitutes bullying at work of Ms Roberts.’’

Ms Robert’s claim was brought under the controversial bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act, which allows the tribunal to make orders to ‘stop bullying at work’ but does not allow it to award compensation.

Whilst Mrs Bird’s unfriending of Ms Robert may not have been the sole reason she was found guilty of bullying, it was certainly a contributing factor. Employers need to have a clearly outlined social media policy in place for employees to follow.

If you would like to discuss your current social media policies or you would like assistance implementing them into your workplace, call Employsure on 1300 651 415. We can help ensure your employees know what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to social media in the workplace.

Sourced via and the Financial Review

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