What’s the impact of all that unfriending?
TEMPTED to delete that annoying co-worker from Facebook?
Clearing out your Facebook account is normal practice for many of us, but a workplace tribunal has ruled that unfriending could be construed as bullying.
Ms Roberts went to the Fair Work Commission alleging she had been bullied by her employer, mainly in her interactions with Lisa Bird, the sales administrator and the wife of the agency’s principal.
Following that meeting, Ms Bird told Ms Roberts she was a “naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher”.
The deputy president of the commission, Nicole Wells, said in her decision that the unfriending showed “a lack of emotional maturity” on Mrs Bird’s part that had made Ms Roberts unwell. She also accused Mrs Bird of not delivering photocopies to her when handing them out to other staff.
The tribunal heard that a falling-out over a lost sale escalated when Ms Bird stopped greeting Ms Roberts and subsequently unfriended her on the social network.
“The “schoolgirl” comment, even accepting of Mrs Bird’s version of events, which I am not, is evidence of an inappropriate dealing with Ms Roberts which was provocative and disobliging”. However she revealed after one particularly heated disagreement, Bird unfriended her from Facebook – an act that she claimed left her feeling depressed and anxious.
The Commission agreed with Ms Roberts that the behaviour was unreasonable. She also found that this behaviour posed a risk to Rachael’s health and safety.
The claim was brought under the controversial bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act, which allows the tribunal to make orders to “stop bullying at work” but does not allow it to award compensation.
She said the alleged behaviour, which occurred between November 2013 and January 2015, resulted in her being unable to sleep, depressed and highly anxious, requiring medication from her GP and psychologist.
Legal experts said the case did not mean that unfriending a colleague on Facebook would automatically constitute bullying.