An Australian hairdresser has won compensation for wrongful dismissal after losing her job for making unflattering remarks about her employer on Facebook.
The Australian newspaper reports on the case of Sally-Anne Fitzgerald from Melbourne, who was fired from her job at Escape Hair Design in February this year.
She reportedly posted this status update on Facebook: “Xmas ‘bonus’ along side a job warning, followed by no holiday pay!!! Whoooooo! The Hairdressing Industry rocks man!!! AWSOME!!!” The salon’s owner, Dianna Smith, was made aware of the update by an unnamed third party.
As well as the Facebook posting, Smith listed punctuality, the alleged unauthorized removal of hair product from the premises and rescheduling of clients as the reasons for Fitzgerald’s dismissal.
But an employment tribunal has found that Fitzgerald should not have lost her job. Commissioner Michelle Bissett for Fair Work Australia said the termination of Fitzgerald’s employment was “harsh, unjust and unreasonable” and awarded her $2,340 in compensation. She said the comments would harm neither the hairdressing industry as a whole nor Smith’s salon, which was not identified.
However, Bissett warned people not to treat Facebook postings as private. In her ruling she said that postings on Facebook to complain about work were increasingly common but this was risky behavior.
“What might previously have been a grumble about their employer over a coffee or drinks with friends has turned into a posting on a website that, in some cases, may be seen by an unlimited number of people,” she wrote. “Posting comments about an employer on a website that can be seen by an uncontrollable number of people is no longer a private matter but a public comment.”
She added: “A Facebook posting, while initially undertaken outside working hours, does not stop once work recommences. It remains on Facebook until removed, for anyone with permission to access the site to see . . . it would be foolish of employees to think they may say as they wish on their Facebook page with total immunity from any consequences.”
You can see the full decision on the Fair Work Australia site.
Meanwhile, the U.S. courts are conflicted over whether Facebook updates and messages are legally private if hidden behind privacy settings. Citing the same 1986 law, a federal judge ruled that they were, while a New York judge ruled that they weren’t.