Office Buzz

| Updated on August 15, 2019

Three recent dismissals that underline the pitfalls of modern work life

Sacked over social media posts

Is it lawful for a public servant to be sacked over social media posts? The Australian high court recently upheld a decision to sack Michaela Banerji, who worked in the immigration department of the country, for her anonymous social media posts criticising the government’s immigration policy.

Banerji was sacked for breaching the public service code of conduct. She appealed against unfair dismissal in a lower court which she lost but won a workers’ compensation case when the tribunal felt that her sacking breached freedom of speech.

Now Australia’s high court has overturned the tribunal’s decision, noting that implied freedom is not a “personal right of free speech”. The case has implications for over 2 million workers in Australia who are employed by the government. In 2012, the Australian government introduced guidelines for public servants’ use of the Internet and social media. These guidelines were made stricter in 2017. Countries all over the world are tightening norms over the digital behaviour of government servants. It may be recalled that in India, in 2017, BSF soldier Tej Bahadur Yadav was dismissed for posting a video online complaining about the food served to troops.

Sacked over selfies

Can you sack someone for taking selfies at work? In New Zealand, a man who was on trial for a job was fired after two-and-a-half days because he was on the phone too much and also took selfies on a forklift. But guess what? Wei Hu, the man sacked over selfies, won $3,800 when he demanded compensation for unfair dismissal.

The Employment Relations Authority said the company had failed to try him out for the trial period agreed, as required under the Employment Relations Act of the country, and thus he had been dismissed without following proper procedures.

In his statement Hu said the sacking hurt him and made him lose trust of employers. He was awarded $817 for the three weeks he spent looking for another job and $3,000 as compensation for the dismissal.

Sacked over role in protests

Hong Kong's largest airline Cathay Pacific has reportedly suspended a pilot who took part in the anti-government protests rocking the city. The airline has also sent a memo to all its staff saying that those who take part in the street protests could be fired. Two airport-based staff have reportedly been asked to go for leaking travel information of Hong Kong’s police force to the protesters. Cathay’s CEO, Rupert Hogg, in a memo to employees said, “It is important to remember that actions and words of our employees made outside of working hours can have significant effect on the company.”

Published on August 15, 2019

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