Published: Wed, Sep 15th, 2010

Big Brother May be Watching You!

Personal comments are often posted with little thought as to the eventual audience. It is prudent therefore to think twice before posting that derogatory comment about a work colleague or your employer as it may lead to disciplinary action or at worst dismissal; particularly if the comment was posted during working hours!

The danger of indiscreet remarks posted on social networking sights was highlighted in the recent decision in Adams v Wellington Free Ambulance Service Incorporated. Ms Adams had been dismissed from her employment, following a dispute with a co-worker that spilled over into Facebook.

Ms Adams was found to have been unjustifiably dismissed, due to errors on the part of the employer in relation to the evidence that it considered in making the decision to dismiss her. However, her award was reduced by a total of 60% due to her contribution to the situation in which she found herself, and subsequently discovered misconduct on her part. With regard to the Facebook entries and in declining Ms Adams’ application for reinstatement, the Authority Member commented “Also significant is Ms Adams’ failure to understand that her interactions on Facebook were legitimate areas of concern for her employer… An employer is entitled (and indeed obliged if the issue relates to workers’ health and safety) to investigate problems between co-workers, even if the problems occur outside of work, especially if the genesis of those problems is the workplace. This is because such problems can clearly affect relationships in the workplace, which the employer is in control of and responsible for…”.

If you have encountered problems in the workplace, either as an employer or employee, please contact Helen Wendelborn or Michael Robinson of this office. We would be pleased to give you some practical advice on how to proceed.

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