02 Nov 2016

CU LAB: Bullying on employers' social media - who's responsible?

Michael Byrnes explains why your social media activities can be a WHS issue for your employees.

Related Knowledge

Get in Touch

Get in touch information is loading


Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.


Well the first wave of social media policies was very much about regulating what employees did on social media, what they said about the business, ensuring that they didn't reveal or disclose confidential information, what they said about other employees, their colleagues. 

So that was the first wave of social media policy.  Increasingly businesses are establishing social media accounts in order to elicit feedback on their businesses, on their services and also on their staff, and that's opening up a range of issues of itself. 

Interestingly there was a recent labour arbitration decision in Canada where it was found that the Transit Commission in Toronto had established a social media account which had elicited a range of very negative feedback ‒ often quite offensive, highly disparaging, or vitriolic in some instances ‒ about their staff members.

This labour arbitration had found that this had  led to staff feeling that they had been, in effect, bullied and mistreated. It made certain orders in respect of the operation of that social media account.

This gives rise to a range of interesting issues as to what employers should do in circumstances where they are quite understandably looking to use social media to elicit feedback about their business and, in particular, about their staff members and the service that they provide to customers and prospective customers. 

One thing employers should look to do is to address these issues in their own social media policies.  So if a business is establishing a social media account for the purpose of eliciting feedback about services and in particular about their staff, they should put in place processes to deal with feedback that is particularly offensive or hostile about individual workers or employees. Those policies or procedures should ensure that those employees or workers are (to the extent you can do so) protected from that kind of feedback in order to ensure that the health and safety of those employees isn't undermined or threatened by that feedback which has been elicited through these social media accounts.