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Good Guy fairly sacked over Facebook rant

Date

Daniel Hurst

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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

0 comment so far

  • Again a failure by the FWA. A guy doesn't get paid and voices his frustration to friends and gets sacked. maybe the FWA needs to be sacked?

    Commenter
    Damien
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 18, 2011, 9:28AM
    • Disgraceful. We have become so thin-skinned these days.

      Good guys are a bunch of sooks.

      Commenter
      Leigh
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 18, 2011, 9:42AM
      • I think the sacking is not justifiable. The store has messed up his pay, and he got frustrated. What is wrong with telling THE TRUTH?

        I had a work colleague ask to be my Facebook friend. I have ignored his invite. I will remain having no work friends on FB.

        Commenter
        JJ
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 18, 2011, 10:02AM
        • an ad for google+?

          Commenter
          leftwingback
          Location
          sydney
          Date and time
          August 18, 2011, 10:07AM
          • Could you say those comments to your boss or senior staff in your office and get away with it? No? Posting it on Facebook is no different. It's time Gen Y learned that.

            Commenter
            theadder
            Date and time
            August 18, 2011, 10:10AM
            • Never EVER have your boss as a facebook friend. And if you don't 100% trust your workmates with your life, don't have them friend you on there either. Or simply never mention work on there.

              What i do: too many people from work are friends on facebook, which is nice but i can't say what i think. So i got a twitter account under a psydonym, that only my close mates know about. On that i tell ALL.

              Commenter
              bottomless
              Location
              pit
              Date and time
              August 18, 2011, 10:18AM
              • @Damien and Leigh - there's expressing your frustrations and there's expressing your frustrations.

                If you can't express your frustrations against a female colleague without dropping the 'C' bomb you deserve everything you get IMHO.

                Commenter
                Freddie
                Location
                Forestville
                Date and time
                August 18, 2011, 10:23AM
                • That employee was publishing libel against his employer, what did he expect?

                  Commenter
                  Dman
                  Location
                  Outback
                  Date and time
                  August 18, 2011, 10:24AM
                  • It kind of makes sense that he was fired for this. Especially since there was a physical grandstanding. Although I would expect that Goodguys would still provide this man with a reasonable referee report assuming that he was a good worker in other respects.

                    Some counselling advice may be good too, especially if he is relatively young. People need to realise that there is a chain of command and people should not have such high expectations of people above them.

                    Commenter
                    Don
                    Location
                    Canberra
                    Date and time
                    August 18, 2011, 10:27AM
                    • theadder is correct. If you post crap like that in the public domain, expect repercussions.
                      Grow up people. If you have pay or work issues, discuss it with your manager or human resources and then lodge a complaint with the ombudsmen, if required. Do not post on FB etc.

                      Commenter
                      NRG
                      Location
                      NSW
                      Date and time
                      August 18, 2011, 10:29AM

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