Resources: Blog

Employee awarded compensation for dismissal over Facebook Messenger

Blog
|

Respect my authority

Unfair dismissal application lodged by an employee who was summarily dismissed in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently considered an unfair dismissal application lodged by an employee who was summarily dismissed in a Facebook Messenger chat.

In Morris v Alphaeus Hair Salon [2018] FWC 2642, Commissioner Riordan was provided with a Facebook Messenger chat transcript in which a salon owner accused an employee of participating in a conspiracy against him before advising her: “Good luck in your new job if you can find one”.

The employee was employed as a hairdresser at the salon and was promised that she would manage a new salon opening in another location. This good working relationship soured, however, on the evening of 6 December 2017 after the salon owner initially messaged the employee to enquire whether he had an appointment in the morning.

When the employee did not answer immediately, he sent a further message stating that the employee had to make a choice whether she was “with me or against me”. The employee replied that she did not know what he was talking about and the pair exchanged escalating messages in which the salon owner:

  • Told the employee that she had to “cut off” former employees as her friends or she would not have a job;
  • Accused the employee of planning abandon him and leave the salon;
  • Demanded to know whether he could trust the employee;
  • Accused the employee and a co-worker of contributing to his fear that they were second guessing him;
  • Claimed that the employee tried to have control over him;
  • Advised the employee that she had to “rid that attitude you have”; and
  • Questioned whether he should continue to employ the employee.

The employee tried to call the salon owner so that he could explain his messages and attempted to reassure him that she liked her job, that she was not leaving the salon and that other employees were not out to get him, but the salon owner did not answer.

After the employee advised that she was stressed out from his messages and was not going to come in the following day, the salon owner sent a series of messages including: “Good luck in your new job if you can find one”, “I will cut you from my fold Good luck girl as you will need it” and “Goodbye loser [sic]”. The salon owner then proceeded to rant and stated: “You r dead to me!...I will have justice and you will receive my wrath!...You are nothing and will be nothing” and threatening “Depart from me as I will destroy u!”

The employee lodged an unfair dismissal application. The employer did not lodge a response and did not participate in the Hearing.

The FWC noted that the salon owner and the employee had a good working relationship and that they regularly chatted on Facebook outside of work. However, the FWC characterised the final exchange as a chat which “spiralled out of control”.

The FWC held that there was no valid reason for the dismissal. It found that the employee was dismissed because the salon owner held a “conspiracy theory” about the employee talking to current and former colleagues, but there was no evidence before it that the employee had done this or had tried to undermine the employer.

The FWC ordered that the employer pay the employee a total of 4 weeks’ pay (being the loss of remuneration between her dismissal and her new employment).

Lessons for employers

While it is increasingly common for employers and employees to converse on social media, such platforms should not be used to have disciplinary discussions with employees, particularly outside of work hours. Such serious conversations are better handled in a formal manner with a proper process. In this matter the chat which “escalated from a simple enquiry to an unfortunate conclusion” may have resolved if the two parties had discussions over the phone or face-to-face.

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Similar articles

FWC upholds objection to constructive dismissal claim

Construction zone

In order to access the unfair dismissal jurisdiction, an employee must be “dismissed” from their employment by the employer. One of the instances in which an employee may be “dismissed” from their employment is if they were forced to resign because of the employer’s conduct or course of conduct.

Read more...

The onus and presumption in adverse action matters

It’s on you

Under the general protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), it is unlawful for a person to take adverse action against another person for a proscribed reason. One of the features of the general protections provisions under the FW Act is the presumption that adverse action was taken for a proscribed reason unless it is proven that the adverse action was not taken for that reason.

Read more...

Termination of employment letters

In your letter

A termination of employment letter serves a significant purpose in bringing the employment relationship to an end.

Read more...

FWC upholds objection to constructive dismissal claim

Construction zone

In order to access the unfair dismissal jurisdiction, an employee must be “dismissed” from their employment by the employer. One of the instances in which an employee may be “dismissed” from their employment is if they were forced to resign because of the employer’s conduct or course of conduct.

Read more...

Court penalises accountant for involvement in employer’s failure to keep employee records

Put your records on

The Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth) impose a number of obligations on employers with respect to the making and keeping of employee records and pay slips.

Read more...

The onus and presumption in adverse action matters

It’s on you

Under the general protections provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), it is unlawful for a person to take adverse action against another person for a proscribed reason. One of the features of the general protections provisions under the FW Act is the presumption that adverse action was taken for a proscribed reason unless it is proven that the adverse action was not taken for that reason.

Read more...

Let's talk

please contact our directors to discuss how ouR expertise can help your business.

We're here to help

Contact Us
Let Workplace Law become your partner in Workplace Relations.

Signup to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to you inbox.