Last week’s High Court decision in Comcare v Bannerji serves as a timely reminder to employers about the importance of setting out employees’ obligations under a code of conduct or other policy dealing with social media.
The Court held that the termination of Ms Bannerji’s employment by the Commonwealth for posting 9,000 anonymous tweets criticising her employer was justified under her employer’s code of conduct because of their connection with her work. This was despite the fact that the tweets were made anonymously, nearly all outside of work hours and using her personal twitter account. Whilst the case specifically deals with provisions of the Public Service Act and whether those provisions are unconstitutional, it reinforces the trend in recent case law that employees should be careful when posting critical messages about their employer on social media (even where messages are posted anonymously).
What you can do to protect your business from damaging social media posts
The best way to protect your business from suffering harm from an employee’s social media conduct is to prevent it happening in the first place. Whilst clear and up to date policies governing employee conduct (including after hours’ conduct and whether or not the conduct is anonymous) and guidelines regarding social media usage are a helpful safeguard, they will be of little value if employees are unaware of their contents.
To ensure that employees understand their obligations it is essential that they are explicitly informed of them. This may take place through regular training sessions about social media and conduct outside of work hours or email updates on these topics.