Bullying in the workplace – how defriending a colleague on Facebook can attract sanctions

A recent application to the Fair Work Commission brought up the issue of how people can use on-line media to perpetuate a bullying regime that can attract sanctions.  The definition of what constitutes bullying includes a requirement that it occurs more than once.  For most businesses or companies this can be a very low bar.

Earlier this year a worker for a small business made a complaint to the Fair Work Commission which included an application for an order to stop bullying.  In his decision the Commissioner stated the following about the employee’s situation and the actions of her boss

“This action (the unfriending of the employee from Facebook) by Mrs Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour, the likes of which I have already made findings on. The ‘school girl’ comment, even accepting of Mrs Bird’s version of events, which I am not, is evidence of an inappropriate dealing with Ms Roberts which was provocative and disobliging. I am of the view that Mrs Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms Roberts when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like Ms Roberts and would prefer not to have to deal with her”

It was the unfriending of the employee on Facebook along with other actions that were aggressive and demeaning that amounted to bullying under the definition provided in the Fair Work Act.

If you are a victim of bullying or have an issue that could amount to bullying in the workplace, please contact us for assistance.

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