Getting Fired Cause of Facebook: Employment Dispute resulting from posting comment "big news" for Burger King NZ

posted Mar 12, 2011, 3:36 AM by Jess Maher   [ updated Mar 15, 2011, 10:05 PM ]
Review of our involvement and lessons from this case are still to come: relates to the highly publicized employment dispute between Burger King NZ and Julie Tyler & Unite Union touched on the topic of "getting fired cause of Facebook".  

Don't we realise our lives are now "virtual realities''?

posted 8 Feb 2011 19:31 by Jess Maher   [ updated 9 Mar 2011 00:34 ]

Social Media has become largely accepted to be in some ways integrated our daily lives on the one hand, but then on the other- a seperation or distinction between the two still largely appears to exsist in some strikingly obvious ways... 

The very recent Employment Relations drama to hit the traditional media streams also with the help of Unite Union was that involving a Dunedin Burger King employee, Juile Tyler. This kind of issue is not something that just appeared overnight. 

In face, we at least, have been anticipating and expecting to occur for sometime now to be honest..  
From the New Zealand Herald article, 

The company held a private disciplinary meeting yesterday over the message posted by Julie Tyler, 27, which was brought to her manager's attention by another employee. At the meeting her employers decided that rather than being sacked, she would be given a second final warning.  

Ms Tyler was already on her final warning after receiving two previous complaints, including one for telling an abusive customer, "Like you need it".  Ms Tyler told the Otago Daily Times she was relieved to keep her job and stood by her comments saying it was about "freedom of speech". 

Unite national director Mike Treen said the matter was an important public policy matter.  "Young workers communicate via Facebook today as others in the past exchanged words about their jobs socially over a drink. In any case the comment is innocuous and simply repeats what every New Zealanders know about fast-food jobs," he said.

In this particular case, particularly with an industry that has such strong Union involvement, the debate revolves around the nature of what was said on Facebook, rather than the fact that it was an online medium that the comment was said in... 

NZ Herald from Feb 2010

A new survey of 520 New Zealand companies has found that 67 per cent have no policies in place to regulate staff use of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It comes as a leading employer group says more businesses are having increasing problems with workers using social networking sites to badmouth their bosses.;objectid=10625739

And despite some seeming surprised or in some way appear to experience a sense of injustice it appears the majority of the mainstream media at least have publically recognized this integration and cross over since this time last year if not before.. 

Some valuable and wise advice could be found even before then, in 2009 this quote was published by the Guardian: 

"In fact, most of the problems have nothing to do with new media, but are simply because people tend to forget their manners online. As behaviour is very important in public and we all live public lives now, etiquette is making a comeback. Don't forget that these days camera phones and Twitterers are everywhere, so each of us can become a representative of our company wherever we go." 

In 2009, 84% of companies did not measure social media ROI: in 2011, that’s not an option. Business decisions are best made when they are based on hard numbers that measure success, and social media efforts are no longer an exception. (Erica Swallow)

Unite Union posted an article about this, Final written warning for Facebook comments outrageous,  which can be found here:

In another  case touched on whether workers have the right to criticize supervisors in internet forums. While there are plenty of reasons employees may want to keep their work gripes to themselves, the outcome seems to suggest employers, at least those in the US, may want to proceed with caution.

David Lowe, advisory services manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), said the EMA was doing its own research around the legal technicalities of employees using social media.

Lowe said companies were increasingly approaching EMA with problems arising from employees using social media, such as workers making negative comments about their employers on their social networking pages.

"What we have been dealing with more recently is former employees who make their views known [online] as they depart under unhappy circumstances," he said.  The situation was more difficult when a former employee decided to make a social media attack on a former workplace, but Lowe said a simple phone call, and a request for the comment to be removed, could solve the situation.

"Before bringing in the lawyers ... before going too far, that can be the first step," he said.

Lowe said employees' use of social media had the ability to damage a firm's reputation, and was an area where the usual clauses in employment agreements and "house rules" sometimes did not apply.

"When [the employment agreements] were written social networking wasn't really thought of." But he said the loss of productivity from employees using social media was not a big issue.                        By Christopher Adams             

Articles and Blogs referenced in this post include: 

NZHerald    |    Harsh reality for employers when staff chuck their toys  |   By Deborah Coddington    

 5:30 AM Sunday Aug 29, 2010             |        

NZHerald       |      Facebook at work problems growing, say employers        |    By Christopher Adams                    
11:45 AM Friday Feb 12, 2010   |         

Employer settles with Facebooker who called boss 'dick': Social network = public forum     |         By Dan Goodin in San Francisco      |           Posted in Music and Media9th February 2011 04:00 GMT

Guardian      |          Help! My boss is on Twitter: three rules to avoid social media catastrophes    |  Posted by Mercedes BunzWednesday 11 November 2009 13.09 GMT            |