07 August 2019

Press release: Post at your peril. High Court warns on social media use at work.

Articles resulting from this press release include: Banerji case sends ‘warning shot’ for employees’ use of social media by Jerome Doraisamy (Lawyers Weekly - 8 August 2019) and Banerji case a ‘warning shot’ to employees using social media by Jerome Doraisamy and Adam Zuchetti (My Business - 8 August 2019). James Mattson's comments on this topic have also been sought for in ABC Radio and ABC News.

A High Court of Australia decision has today sent a warning shot that personal or anonymous social media posts can see you sacked by your employer.

The court unanimously ruled that a Canberra public servants’ dismissal for anonymous tweets critical of her employer did not infringe on her freedom of speech and therefore her dismissal was not unlawful.

“Today’s ruling sends a cautionary message to employees, particularly those in the public service, about ensuring their social media activity does not conflict with their employment duties” said James Mattson, Head of Workplace Law & Culture at Bartier Perry.

Mr Mattson said a key element of the ruling was that an employee could not hide behind a social media account that didn’t identify them.

“An anonymous posting may not always provide comfort for an employee from disciplinary action. As the High Court said, the risk of identification is obvious.”

He cautioned though that the decision did not give employers free reign to fire employees for social media posts they didn’t like.

“Today’s ruling also does not provide a green light for employers to simply dismiss employees for social media misuse. The High Court discussed other remedies available to employees and the need for any reasonable exercise of discretion to consider different sanctions,” he said.

“This ruling also does not silence employees from having their own opinions. It instead recognises that while employees may have some freedoms and rights they also have obligations. Employees must comply with their obligations to their employer,” said Mr Mattson.

 

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