Resources: Blog

Fair Work Commissioner considers Facebook posts as evidence in an unfair dismissal matter

Blog
|

It wasn’t me

Employees active on social media (such as Facebook) fail to consider who might be able to see their personal online posts at any given time.

Employees active on social media (such as Facebook) fail to consider who might be able to see their personal online posts at any given time. The consequences can be significant – particularly in an employment context.

It is becoming increasingly common for employers to review their employees’ social media presence at various stages of the employment relationship, particularly when claims are made against the employer by an employee or former employee. So, what happens when an employee’s social media post contradicts a claim that they make against an employer? Can the employer use a social media post, or even the employee’s entire profile, as evidence in the defence of a claim?

Last month, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) provided some insight into the question in Wragg v Queensland Scaffolding Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 4986. In this case, the FWC not only indicated its willingness to accept social media posts as evidence, but went so far as to actively review the social media pages itself.

The case addressed jurisdictional issues raised in response to an unfair dismissal claim made by Mr Wragg. As the employee’s unfair dismissal application was lodged 81 days late, the issue before the FWC was whether there were any ‘exceptional circumstances’ that permitted the FWC to allow an extension of time for the making of an application.

The reason for the delay given by the employee was that he was depressed due to personal circumstances and was, during those 81 days, incapable of taking care of himself. He also submitted that he was travelling to remote parts of Australia.

In defending the claim, the employer produced evidence that the employee had been active on Facebook, posting reviews about products and his activities, and chatting to friends through the ‘comment’ function. The FWC accepted this evidence and took it into account when considering the employer’s jurisdictional objection to the employee’s unfair dismissal application.

The FWC also went beyond the evidence submitted by the employer and reviewed the employee’s Facebook page itself. In doing so, it discovered a wider range of social media activity on the part of the employee, which contradicted his claim. The FWC commented:

“During the investigation I had the opportunity to review Mr Wragg’s Facebook profile for the months from the dismissal until 23 March 2018. I observed that Mr Wragg was relatively active, including posting a video of him crossing a creek bed in a 4WD, together with ‘selfies’ taken by him.”

While the FWC accepted that the employee considered himself depressed, it refused to accept that he was ‘extremely incapacitated’ so as to prevent him from making his unfair dismissal application on time. The FWC relied on both the posts submitted as evidence by the employer and the additional social media activity it sought out itself. Although not the only evidence relied upon, the Facebook posts were a significant factor that the FWC considered in refusing to grant an extension of time to the Employee.

Lessons for employers

Employers should be conscious of the ways in which employees use social media, including how this might impact on the employment relationship and be relevant to any claims made during and after employment.

This decision indicates that, in the face of a claim made by an employee, the FWC is prepared to consider relevant evidence in the form of social media posts. Employers are generally entitled to rely on posts they see on social media to support their cases as long as such information is not obtained by any breach of privacy laws.

It is also useful for employers to be aware that the FWC is entitled to inform itself as to any matter it considers relevant and may, of its own will, investigate social media profiles.

 

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...

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...

Workplace Relations Review

Cases and Legislation September 2020

The Queensland Government recently passed legislation amending the Criminal Code Act 1899 (the Code) to criminalise wage theft by employers in Queensland.‍The Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020 (the Bill) was introduced to the Queensland Parliament in response to a Report released in 2018 by the Queensland Parliamentary Education, Employment and Small Business Committee following an inquiry into wage theft in Queensland. The Report identified critical issues in wage theft as well as deliberate action taken by employers to frustrate employees’ attempts to recover entitlements.

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.