Refusal to sign social media policy grounds for dismissal

In the recent case of Pearson v Linfox Australia Pty Ltd, the Fair Work Commission held that the employee’s dismissal was not harsh, unjust or reasonable, given the string of evidence relating to the employee’s failure to follow company policies and procedures, including his resistance to signing the company social media policy.

The employee had a history of not following policy including failures to follow the company mobile phone policy, absenteeism and safe working procedures policy on different occasions. The final straw arose when the employee the employee refused to sign the company’s social media policy.

The employee attended group training on the new company social media policy but failed to register his attendance at that training session. Consequently, he was then provided with further training in the form of a 1-on-1 session.  At the conclusion of the session he refused to sign an acknowledgement that was to confirm that he had read and understood the policy.

He justified his refusal by saying the policy restrained his actions outside of work which he considered a breach of his individual rights.

The Commission rejected the employee’s argument noting that:

“…it is difficult to see how a social media policy designed to protect an employer’s reputation and the security of the business could operate in an “at work” context only… This would be an impractical approach and clearly there are some obligations employees accept as part of their employment relationship that have application whether they are at work or involved in activities outside of working hours.

Key point:  Every business should have a Social Media Policy in place.  This decision reaffirms an employer’s right to implement a fair and reasonable policy and that a repeated disregard for and refusal to comply with an employer’s policies and procedures will generally give rise to a valid reason to terminate an employee’s employment.

Disclaimer: The information contained this article is general and intended as a guide only. Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances. While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this update, Aitken Legal does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.