A good judge, but I bet the Privacy Commission would disagree

A judge has ruled in an employment case that there is no such thing as privacy on Facebook.

Judge Christina Inglis ruled against a ratbag employee who slagged off his boss on Facebook.

Slagging off your boss on Facebook might not be the best career move, with a judge warning there is no such thing as a private conversation on the social network.

The advice comes after an employee, who called his manager a dickhead on Facebook, lost his appeal for constructive dismissal.

Jarrod Hook took his case to the Employment Relations Authority earlier this year, claiming he was pushed into resigning from his job as an IT consultant for the Stream Group. 

He was given a written warning after sending disparaging emails about the company’s Australian management and being absent from the office without explanation.

After he resigned, the company discovered the offensive posts on his Facebook page. They included a friend hoping that one of Hook’s bosses would be “mauled by a pack of rabid dingos”.

The authority ruled against Hook, but he appealed to the Employment Court, where he was again unsuccessful.

In her decision, Judge Christina Inglis noted the use of social networks in employment disputes had only arisen sporadically in New Zealand.

But examples of staff using the sites to criticise their employers were becoming more common and carried risks, she said.

“It is well established that conduct occurring outside the workplace may give rise to disciplinary action, and Facebook posts, even those ostensibly protected by a privacy setting, may not be regarded as protected communications beyond the reach of employment processes.

“After all, how private is a written conversation initiated over the internet with 200 ‘friends’, who can pass the information on to a limitless audience?”

Eminently sensible, and somewhat smarter than your average judge.

Human Resources Institute of New Zealand acting chief executive Brenda Tweedy said she was often surprised at the things people wrote online about their workplaces.

“It’s the same thing with emails, it’s just like a postcard, anyone can see it. People think if they tick a box, things are private. Well, they’re not.

“Sometimes I see stuff on there and think, ‘What an idiot’.”

Things had a way of always coming out eventually, so if employees wanted a good reference they should act appropriately, she said.

Yeah especially if you leave hard drives lying round with 10 years of your life on it.

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