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How to correctly terminate an employee following serious social media misconduct.

In the recent case of Cameron Little v Credit Corp Group Limited t/as Credit Corp Group (U2013/11522), Credit Corp Group’s adherence to the correct protocol for employee terminations made it easier for the FWC to conclude that the dismissal of Cameron Little was lawful.

Credit Corp Group followed these four steps, they provided:-

Employee education and awareness

The employer had a Code of Conduct and a section in its Employee Handbook dedicated to social media website usage which prohibited inappropriate use of social media.  It warned that failure to comply could result in disciplinary action including termination.

As well as providing induction training and a permanent intranet facility where its policies where available, the employer continued to provide ongoing education and awareness to employees via ongoing training, emails and yearly refreshers. The education included topics such as appropriate social media usage and how to respectfully engage with other organisations with whom its employees had dealings with in the course of their work;

Prior warnings

Mr. Little was warned on a prior occasion about unacceptable comments posted online during work hours, and that any such future conduct could result in further disciplinary action or dismissal.

Written and verbal notice of reasons of termination and opportunity to respond

Correct steps for employee termination

Employers who follow these steps when they terminate an employee can be confident that they have done the right things should the matter ever be challenged in court.

Mr. Little was notified of the reasons for his dismissal and provided with an opportunity to respond.

What can employers take from this decision?

Your employees need to know what constitutes inappropriate social media conduct.

Your business should have clear policies in place that outline your position regarding social media use.  Further, you should adequately communicate these policies to your employees and provide ongoing awareness and education on the matter.

Do not ignore breaches of your policies by employees.  Consider issuing a formal warning and/or take the opportunity to offer further training and support if necessary.

For serious breaches resulting in dismissal

You must notify the employee of your reasons for the dismissal, and give the employee an opportunity to respond to same, prior to terminating their employment to afford them full procedural fairness.

Further resources

Social Media Employment Termination Case – Cameron Little v Credit Corp Group

When can a Small Business legally dismiss an employee?

Social Media Policy

Employment Agreement

Workplace Policy

Employment Termination FAQ’s (Fair Work)

Small Business Fair Dismissal Code

Termination of employment letter – redundancy template