The Facebook Five

During my presentation yesterday on social media in the workplace at RecruitTech I spoke briefly about the “Facebook Five” and felt I would expand on my comments here.

In summary six (it was five) NSW prison officers are being threatened with being fired over comments they made on a Facebook page “Suggestion to help Big Ron save a few clams”. This was at a time when the NSW was looking to sell of prisons to save some money.

The case went before the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) this week where the Public Service Association (PSA) filed an application asking the corrective services workers have the treats revoked. The workers are claiming that the comments were private and outside of work.

The PSA has also stated to the IRC that it intends to seek changes to the award to exclude out-of-work hours activities from being dismissible offences. The claim says:

“An employee shall not be the subject of any disciplinary action by reason of conduct that occurs outside working hours and which is intended by the employee to be private in nature”

However QUT Senior Lecturer Peter Black has commented, quite rightly, that can anything online be considered private:

There is certainly, I think an argument that it is a private conversation, however I think that probably ignores the reality of how these sorts of websites operate,

However because there is always a record kept of these sorts of conversations in an online environment, even where it is private, it is very easy for that information to get out beyond the wall.

Another interesting fact to consider is let’s define the work hours. If I answer work emails on a BlackBerry at home and then use the same device to post something on Facebook, was the post outside of work hours or not?

This case looks like it could be one begin to shape our employment laws around social media and the workplace.

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