Social Media and Your Employment: How to Avoid Disciplinary Action – Part 1

Social Media at Work

We live in a world where our main form of communication is through social media, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn and more recently TikTok.

Unfortunately, what you post, comment or share on social media can have an impact on your employment and can lead to your employer taking disciplinary action against you, including terminating your employment.

To help you avoid disciplinary action, we have prepared a two part articles providing some tips that every employee should adopt in relation to their social media activity.  Here are the first four tips.

1. Don’t post offensive, derogatory or defamatory material about your employment on social media.

We all have those tough days at work and all you want to do is to vent your frustrations on social media or make a ‘joke’ about your workplace or a work colleague. The best tip that we can give you is ‘don’t do it’.

Unfortunately, when it comes to social media and your employment, you aren’t able to say what you want, even if your social media posts were made outside of work hours, at home or by using your personal device.

Your employer can take disciplinary action if your social media activity:

  • is offensive, derogatory or defamatory about the company, management, work colleagues or their clients/customers;
  • causes or is likely to cause damage to the employment relationship;
  • damages the relationship between yourself and other employees;
  • is damaging to the company’s interests; or
  • is incompatible with your duties as an employee.

Also, making disparaging comments about other work colleagues, whether jokingly or not, could amount to bullying and harassment and result in your employer commencing disciplinary action against you.

If your employer has a social media and/or bullying and harassment policy, ensure you familiarise yourself with those policies to ensure that your conduct on social media is not in breach of those policies. Even if your employer doesn’t have such policies in place, still err on the side of caution, as your conduct may be of such a serious nature that the lack of policies is of no consequence.

2. Don’t identify yourself as an employee of the company on your social media or posts.

Employers are increasingly wanting to protect their brand and reputation. So, your comments on social media may not be in line with your employer’s values and culture of their business. The main link between your employment and potential harm to your employer’s reputation, is whether your employer can be reasonably identified through your social media or posts.

There are multiple ways that an employer can be identified. The most obvious is listing your employer as the company that you are employed by on your social media. Other ways include publishing posts naming your employer or posting photos displaying your employer’s logo or signage.

So if your employer is able to be identified and you publish inappropriate comments or material on your social media that can cause damage to your employer’s reputation and/or the employment relationship, then you could be subject to disciplinary action.

3. Don’t add people that you work with to your social media.

Social media allows work colleagues to connect and get a better insight to their personal lives. However, in our experience, one of the main ways an employer has become aware of a person’s conduct on social media is because their work colleagues have reported them to management.

If other employees do follow you on social media, then be mindful of the content that you post about your work and your workplace.

If you are considering adding work colleagues to your social media, we suggest that you review your social media content and identify if it is generally work-related or personal.

4. Ensure that your social media settings are set to ‘private’.

Another way that employers become aware of an employee’s conduct on social media is when their social media accounts are publicly accessible. So, to ensure that people who do not follow you can’t access your social media, change your settings to ‘private’.

Though, despite the perception being that your social media is ‘private’ there are ways in which your social media can become accessible to your employer. For instance, ‘tagging’ one or more of your work colleagues in a post, which can then be accessed by those people’s friends or followers, which may include management. So be mindful that ‘private’ is not necessarily ‘private’ on social media.

Look out for Part 2 of this article coming soon with another four critical tips to ensure your social media activity doesn’t get you into hot water at work.

If you have any questions or require advice in relation to social media and your employment, please contact Anderson Gray Lawyers on 1300 851 430 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.