Name and shame: Can you go public with employee firings?

by Cameron Edmond15 Jan 2014
David O. Brown, chief of police for the City of Dallas has come to the media’s attention for his transparent approach to HR: posting the details of ex-officers’ terminations via Twitter.

Brown is fairly active on Twitter, and will typically post short tweets detailing the reason for firing an officer (or other subordinates, such as 911 call takers).
The firings also make it to Facebook, where the posts are longer and more detailed, Vocative reported.

While some have blasted Brown’s move, others have praised him and the police force for a dedication to transparency.

Regardless of personal opinion, how would something like this manifest in Australia? Would this kind of behaviour be legal?

Andrew Ball, partner and head of employment at DLA Piper, told HC that employers and employees in Australia will often enter into a deed upon termination of employment, which will usually include non-disparagement clauses. If this is the case, then an employee could sue an employer for breach of the deed if social shaming occurs.
“Discussing matters of your staff in a public forum such as social media always creates the risk that the comment will be seen by the employee, and it may lead to the employee making a complaint or bringing a claim,” he explained. 

Ball added that if the employee challenges their termination in court, these comments on social media may provide the grounds for additional damages awarded against the employer.

While no laws exist to specifically deal with employers behaving this way online, Ball stated that precedents are developing within existing laws that relate to social media.  
“Employees are now on notice that if they publicly disparage their employer on social media, it can be a basis for the employer to validly terminate the employment of the employee … generally speaking, the issues are the same for all employers using social media in this way. My advice is that employers should be aware of the risks before commenting.”

What do you think of Brown’s actions? Is he slandering ex-employees, or earning the public’s trust? Let us know your thoughts below.
 

COMMENTS

  • by Jessica 15/01/2014 1:04:49 PM

    I don't understand why the public need to know why someone was fired. If a civilian individual has a complaint about one of the police staff which is substantiated, I think it would be ok to let that individual know that the employee has been terminated. I don't understand how you can gain the publics trust by naming staff that have been terminated, the two don't seem related to me.

  • by MM 15/01/2014 2:10:22 PM

    While private sector employers are exempted from the privacy rules from matters relating to the employee in the employment relationship - this would not be seen to be part of that relationship. Also public sector employers are not exempt at all. (Police would be public sector).
    I think the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner would be pretty interested in this....

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