The Fair Work Commission has upheld the dismissal of a manager who was found to have posted grossly offensive material on his personal Facebook page.
Cameron Little was a customer relations manager for credit management company Credit Corp Group but was dismissed after commenting on Facebook that a new male employee was “the newest victim of butt rape”.
Little also attacked some charitable organisations on Facebook, suggesting they refrain from free financial counselling and “try to educate people about things like ‘interest’ and ‘liability’ rather than just weasel them out of contracts”.
Credit Corp, which has 1000 employees, gave evidence that Little had received extensive social media training, but persisted with inappropriate comments, and had also attacked an anti-abortion website on Facebook.
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Little claimed his dismissal was “somewhat of a sacrificial determination”, and said his privacy had been breached by Credit Corp.
He said he believed his Facebook page was private and that he didn’t really understand how Facebook worked.
Little said the comments were “just a joke” made outside of work hours and his previous warnings did not involve the social media.
But FWC deputy president Sams rejected Little’s arguments as “gratuitous and self-serving”.
“[Little] is perfectly entitled to have his personal opinions, but he is not entitled to disclose them to the ‘world at large’,” he found.
“It was so grossly offensive, that I am amazed [he] would also argue it was meant to be a joke.”
The FWC found Little’s conduct seriously damaged the relationship between the employer and employee, damaged Credit Corp’s interests, potentially damaged the relationship between Little and other employees and was incompatible with Little’s duty as an employee.
“The net effect of both of these incidents was, in my view, totally inappropriate and constituted serious misconduct. It was a valid reason for the applicant’s dismissal,” deputy president Sams found.
“Viewed in the context of a previous warning for the same type of conduct, it could hardly be said the applicant was not well and truly on notice that similar conduct in the future would not be tolerated and may result in his dismissal.”
Matthew Angell, chief operating officer at Credit Corp, told SmartCompany the company was successful before the FWC because of its policies and training.
“It’s important to have procedures in place in relation to things like social media and the internet and an appropriate training regime in place around that to ensure your employees are aware of what your company deems as acceptable use of the internet and social media,” he says.
Angell says Little acted outside Credit Corp’s policies and so the company took action it thought was appropriate.
“We were happy with the process but it’s disappointing we had to go through it,” he says.
Little told SmartCompany he had never worked with the individual that his Facebook comments were directed at.
“In fact, they were made to a friend ‘of over 9 years’ who happened to have an interview with The Credit Corp Group just prior to my termination,” he says.