Content Marketing Blog

FWA upholds dismissal of employee over Facebook comments

A young man who posted an expletive-laden rant against his employer on Facebook has been fired – and the court has upheld the company’s right to do so.

Damien O'Keefe was an employee of The Good Guys – an electrical goods business – in Townsville for four years when he made the post in frustration about alleged discrepancies in commission payments.

The message was applied to the social network out of company hours and through his own personal equipment, in his dwelling. No mention of the company name was made.

Despite this, O'Keefe's operations manager Kelly Taylor called a meeting that ended in the computer repairman getting sacked, with three weeks pay provided in lieu of notice.

Taylor maintained that the firing was warranted, as the Facebook posts constituted threats against herself and the business.

O'Keefe launched an unfair dismissal claim with Fair Work Australia (FWA) – the independent body responsible for resolving workplace disputes of this nature.

He declared that his Facebook profile was set to the maximum privacy setting and that his post did not mention either his manager or his workplace by name.

But the FWA found that Taylor was within her rights to dismiss O'Keefe as a result of his remarks, as 11 coworkers were still able to view the comments.

Deputy president of the FWA Deirdre Swan said that the complainant had engaged in serious misconduct by making the post and denied his claim of unfair dismissal.

Swan asserted: "The fact that the comments were made on the applicant’s home computer, out of work hours, does not make any difference."

This case highlights the social nature of the internet – the very thing that makes it useful to businesses – and the need for companies and individuals to be aware of how content posted on personal and company blogs can spread through multiple channels.