Technology

Good Guy fairly sacked over Facebook rant

A man sacked for posting an expletive-laden rant against his senior work colleagues on Facebook has lost an unfair dismissal claim.

Damien O'Keefe, who was employed for four years at a Good Guys store in Townsville, took to the social networking site at home on his day off to express frustration at long-running pay problems.

"Damien O'Keefe wonders how the f--- work can be so f---ing useless and mess up my pay again," the May 2010 status update said.

"C---s are going down tomorrow."

Fair Work Australia heard that the employer, trading as Troy Williams The Good Guys, sacked Mr O'Keefe after interpreting the final comment as "a threat" to operations manager Kelly Taylor.

Mr O'Keefe lodged an unfair dismissal claim, arguing his Facebook profile was set to the maximum privacy setting and the Good Guys was not mentioned anywhere on the page.

However, about 11 colleagues were among his 70 Facebook friends.

Mr O'Keefe argued his sacking was harsh, unjust and unreasonable, but FWA found the manner in which he dealt with his pay frustrations "warranted his dismissal for misconduct".

And, in a warning to other employees to take care with their social media comments about colleagues, FWA noted the separation between home and work was "now less pronounced than it once used to be".

Mr O'Keefe said the on-again, off-again pay problems he experienced began early last year after his role changed to that of "Geek Guy", the store's term for computer repairers.

He said he was not paid the commission owed to him for five weeks at the start of the year.

And, although back payments were later made, it was not long until he missed out on commissions again.

"For a period of four weeks, the applicant says that he e-mailed Ms Taylor with his concerns and also spoke to her personally on a number of occasions for the purpose of resolving the problem," the written decision said.

On the day Mr O'Keefe posted the Facebook status, outstanding payments remained unpaid.

But Mr Williams, the director of the store, told Fair Work Australia about 10 female staff were employed in the administration section.

"Mr Williams was firstly responding to the fact that one employee had called a female employee a 'c---' and that he had done so publicly on his Facebook page where other employees could see what was written," the written decision said.

Mr O'Keefe said his area manager contacted him on the day he wrote the comments and told him Mr Williams was taking the comments as his letter of resignation.

FWA heard of a heated meeting between Mr O'Keefe and Mr Williams the following day, when Mr Williams apparently voiced concern that female employees could sue for harassment.

According to Mr O'Keefe's testimony, Mr Williams told him he was a "fat lazy c---" and shoved him towards the stairs.

"[However] Mr Williams denied that he pushed and shoved the applicant, but said that, upon the applicant making no move to leave the room, he took the applicant by the elbow and guided him towards the door," the decision stated.

FWA deputy president Deirdre Swan wrote that no one disputed what was posted on Facebook and Mr O'Keefe should have been aware that work colleagues would see the comments.

Although he was expressing his frustrations over the pay problems, he should have pursued his concerns at a higher level within the business, she stated.

The company's employee handbook required employees to be courteous and polite when communicating with other staff, including not resorting to personal abuse or offensive language.

"The fact that the comments were made on the applicant's home computer, out of work hours, does not make any difference," Ms Swan ruled.

"The comments were read by work colleagues and it was not long before Ms Taylor was advised of what had occurred. The respondent has rightfully submitted, in my view, that the separation between home and work is now less pronounced than it once used to be."

Ms Swan said the worker knew the reason for his sacking and was given the opportunity to respond.

Have you been sacked over something you've said online? Email us.

twitter This reporter is on Twitter: @danielhurstbne

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