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October 2014 HRMonthly 9
George Clooney doesn’t tweet or use Facebook. He
says there’s too much information out there and he
likes the idea of privacy. During her lifetime Marilyn
Monroe made the salient point that, while a career
may be born in public, talent is born in privacy.
For us non-celebrities, privacy matters little
because no one’s interested – unless we say
things in a spirit of intimacy that are thrust into
the public domain.
Welcome to the world of virtual communication,
a world that is opening up wonderful oppor tunities
but is also the cause of workplace headaches.
A recent case reported widely was that of a
senior executive with the Australian Chamber
of Commerce and Industry who was suspended
for inappropriate comments posted on his
The matter cannot be pre-judged, but it is one
of a growing number of cases in which employees
are being punished for rash comments made when
they claim to be making private utterances.
To make an assumption that digital friends
will exercise the loyalty that goes with real-life
friendship can be fraught. Even real-life friends
have been known to breach confidences.
Many matters around virtual loose lips and
the workplace remain unsettled, though ser ve as
guides. Earlier this year, the Fair Work Commission
found that an HR practitioner had been unfairly
dismissed for derogatory comments made about
her manager to his estranged wife.
The HR practitioner was a long-standing
employee, a friend of the wife and confided on the
wife’s private Facebook page that her husband was
unpopular in the workplace and regarded in the
industry as a “tosser”. The husband discovered the
comment when covertly using his wife’s password
to access her private page.
The Commission found that the dismissal
was unfair because the two women believed
they were having a private conversation and the
comments of the applicant had not
A number of lessons can be gained from
this case, one being if the applicant had been
an AHRI member, she would have qualified for
coverage of legal fees under AHRI ProCover, an
automatic professional member entitlement.
The applicant was represented by counsel and would
have incurred substantial out-of-pocket expenses.
While finding in her favour and awarding
compensation, the Commission refrained from
ordering a reinstatement. Even had the Commission
not decided in her favour, the applicant would still
have been entitled to claim legal expenses, the only
bar on coverage being behaviour that is deemed
illegal, which was not relevant in this case.
Two takeaways from the case suggest
themselves: one, avoid gratuitous of fensive
commentar y when posting on social media. And
two, if you’re an HR practitioner, make sure your
AHRI membership remains current.
Lyn Goodear, AHRI chief executive officer
A ROUND-UP OF WHAT
YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT
ACROSS AHRI’S SOCIAL
“Don’t pay too much. Impact
above the mid-point on retention
= zero via Wayne Cascio #AHRINC
“#AHRINC Dr Louise Mahler
has already revealed ‘voice is a
choice’ and voice and body send
up to 93% of your communication.
“Great to hear powerhouse Ita
Buttrose reiterate the importance
of innovation, communication and
change to meet business
challenges #AHRINC #TMS”
“#Mentors can be your allies
in your pursuit of #excellence
#AHRINC #HR #mentoring”
“HR must innovate in three
areas to tackle #business #talent
gaps says @rdentesano in
RIGHT MANAGEMENT ANZ
“Best keynote speaker
@AHRItweets: #AHRINC speaker
@louisemahler profiled today in
“Great to be in Melbourne
conference celebrating @CIPD
collaboration and talking on the
future of #HR”
PETER CHEESE CIPD
“Ah-mazing keynote address
from Marshall Goldsmith this
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