Can employment be terminated for use of Facebook?


The law about unfair dismissal for social media use is still emerging. Several recent cases show that using Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media excessively at work or in an inappropriate manner can have severe consequences for employees.

In the case of O’Keefe v The Good Guys (2011), O’Keefe was fired after posting derogatory and threatening comments on his Facebook page about his employer and colleagues, he did this outside work hours and from home. O’Keefe lodged a claim for unfair dismissal. However Fair Work Australia found that the posts were a valid reason to terminate O’Keefe’s employment. This case concluded that employer was within its rights to dismiss O’Keefe even though the comments were made outside work hours and from home.

Similarly, overuse of social media while at work may also lead to disciplinary action. In Richard O’Connor v Outdoor Creations Pty Ltd (2011), O’Connor was terminated after his employer discovered he had engaged in over 3000 chats on the Google Mail chat system during work hours over a three year period. Fair Work Australia agreed that excessive social media use at work could be a valid reason to terminate employment. However in this case the employer hadn’t provided enough evidence of the offending conduct.

Employers should set clear guidelines and expectations regarding the use of social media and may take action accordingly if any employee breaches these guidelines.