Facebook dismissal ruled unfair by FWA

by 14 Oct 2010

Fair Work Australia has found that a hairdressing salon unfairly dismissed an employee after she posted negative comments about her employer on Facebook.

Prior to being fired, Ms Fitzerald, a former employee of Escape Hair Design, had used the social networking site to post the following status update:

“Xmas 'bonus' along side a job warning, followed by no holiday pay!!! Whoooooo! The Hairdressing Industry rocks man!!! AWSOME!!!”

Other reasons for dismissal also included her unauthorised removal of product from the premises, lack of punctuality, and inappropriate rescheduling of clients. 

But an FWA tribunal found the dismissal was unfair, saying it did not have a valid reason for termination. It ordered a payment of $2,340 in compensation but no reinstatement of Fitzgerald to her position.

FWA found that the Facebook post had been made by Fitzgerald after she had received a smaller Christmas bonus than she expected and holiday pay which was paid partly in cash and the rest by cheque. 

Michael Tamvakologos, partner at law firm Blake Dawson, told HR Leader that the case demonstrated that both employees and employers must be careful about how they use social media.

“[In this case] the conduct did not warrant dismissal, but in other cases it will justify dismissal or some other disciplinary action, and the assumption that what you do at home and at work are always separate isn’t quite right.”

“We may see this type of [social network] behaviour change as there are more of these cases and the consequences become more well known but that will take time. 

“Employers should consider dealing with these issues proactively including by ensuring their employment terms and policies accommodate the situation where employees inappropriately use social networking sites,” Tamvakologos said.


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