Slagging your employer off online

The Herald reports:

One of New Zealand’s largest unions says the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) is “scaremongering” when it claims employees should face legal action for complaining about their jobs on Facebook.

The Engineering and Manufacturers Union (EPMU) has come out strongly against the call from the EMA, saying that prosecuting people for what they say online comes “dangerously close” to impinging on fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression.

EMA employment services manager David Lowe said the use of social media was untested in employment law but employers should take action if employees badmouthed them online.

“Some employees continue to say things on their social networking pages forgetting it isn’t private. Businesses must not sit back and allow their reputations to be sullied by the thoughtless comments of employees or ex-employees.”

Not much one can do about ex-employees, except to point out the obvious that slagging a former employer off in public may make it difficult for them to get future jobs.

In terms of current employees, the EPMU’s position seems rather strange. As much as I support free speech, that is not to say speech does not have consequences.

If an employer or manager posted on their Facebook site that they wanted to strangle a employee because the employee was always fucking things up, I have no doubt the EPMU would say this is outrageous and a breach of the good faith needed in employment relationships.

The same applies in reverse. If an employee is slagging off the employer, managers or even colleagues, that is a breach of the relationship.

Now having said that, an employer should not over react. If an employee is being indiscreet with their comments on say Facebook, the best approach would be to point out why this is a bad idea, and the consequences that could occur.

Now if someone has their Facebook page restricted to friends only, you can argue this is not in public. But then one presumes an employer would not get to see it. If they do, then pretty much by definition it is not private.

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