Ted Geiger Quoted In CNBC Article Regarding Consequences of Unfriending Coworkers

Can unfriending a colleague on Facebook give rise to liability?  It’s a question that CNBC asked me yesterday.  Last week, the Australian Fair Work Commission held that doing so could be considered an act of bullying pursuant to the Fair Work Act of 2009.  In Roberts v. VIEW Launceston Pty Ltd., [2015] FWC 6656, the FWC issued an order mandating that the bullying of an employee at a Tasmanian real estate office must cease.   The FWC’s decision was based upon allegations of 18 separate incidents of bullying between November 2013 and February 2015, including the unfriending of the plaintiff by her supervisor.

While most of the allegations were unremarkable, the FWC’s inclusion of the unfriending allegations made worldwide headlines, including on CNBC.  CNBC asked me to comment on what the implications of the decision could be for U.S. employers.  After noting that neither state nor federal law provides a general civility code for the workplace, I stated that "actions on social media, especially cyberbullying, could certainly be used to substantiate a claim for harassment based on a hostile work environment."  I also clarified that it was important to look at the unfriending issue in context: “This decision here is a onetime decision and while the unfriending is the headline, since the decision was based on number of actions over a two-year period…I don't think that unfriending will become the sole basis for liability anytime soon."

The full article can be read here.