Father and son under face workplace consequences for allegedly offensive tweets
A father and son are experiencing workplace consequences for inappropriate use of social media, prompting discussion about the appropriate use of social media and the line between private opinions and workplace propriety. The father a farmer and former Labor Party candidate, has been forced to resign from a local hospital board after being exposed sending offensive screeds on Twitter.
The Victorian Government confirmed that a director of a Regional Hospital in Gippsland had resigned after the Health Minister had intervened. The Board member’s tweets have been described as sexist, misogynistic and homophobic, and his anonymous Twitter account as left-wing trolling. He has also resigned as a director of AFL Gippsland. “This behaviour is completely unacceptable,” the Health Minister is quoted as saying. “These types of highly discriminatory comments don’t meet community expectations and they certainly don’t meet my expectations.”
The offensive Tweets reportedly began in 2011. The board member attacked Liberal politicians’ sexuality and gender. In one, he reportedly made sexualised remarks about schoolboys. Postings compared ¬Liberal politicians to female sexual organs, asking them to undergo a “retrospective abortion” and compared a female writer to a “used condom”.
The board member stood as an ALP candidate for the 2002, 2006 and 2014 state elections. He has also been a director of other government and not-for-profit boards.
The board member was reported as saying that he thought Twitter was supposed to be anonymous. The board member’s son has also been alleged to be an ¬online bully, two days after his father was forced to resign for allegedly misogynistic and homophobic internet rants.
The public servant son is being investigated after he was linked to an ¬account that sent dozens of foul-mouthed rants toward Liberals. The highly abusive Twitter account also allegedly raged against residents of ¬Pakenham and Cardinia Shire while the employee worked in that council’s planning unit.
The tweets date back to 2009 and include the employee posting photos of himself. In particularly nasty taunts, the account takes aim at a senior female Liberal Minister’s eating choices and also jokes about burning young Liberal Party members.
A Departmental spokesperson said “offensive or ¬derogatory behaviour’’ by staff was not acceptable and that the Department “is investigating whether a possible breach of either the Victorian Public ¬Service Code of Conduct or other department policies has occurred.
Social media is a quick and easy way to share information and opinions online. However, this is a double-edged sword, because it is easy to use irresponsibly and the consequences are enormous. If private or inappropriate information is shared or bullying occurs online, particularly when this occurs in a workplace, civil and/or criminal proceedings can arise. Bullying can also impact on a person’s health.
Inappropriate workplace use of social media can be prevented by the proper drafting and application of organisation codes of conduct, IT policies, social media policies and HR policies and procedures.
In the age of social media, public and private time can also be blurred. A questionable tweet, post or comment while sitting on your couch at night can cost your job – whether it is about work or not.
There have even been cases in Australia where derogatory social media remarks made well outside the individual’s workplace have led to the perpetrator being fired on the grounds of bringing their employer into disrepute.
As such, the message to employees is to be careful with social media usage – assume it is never private – and for employers to have a strong set of policies governing appropriate social media use, covering employees, Board members and volunteers.