1 min read

Employee summarily dismissed for inappropriate Facebook posts

The Case

Mr Matthew Thompson v 360 Finance Pty Ltd (2021)

Mr Thompson was employed as a finance broker for 360 Finance Pty Ltd (360 Finance). Mr Thompson was summarily dismissed after posting two memes to his personal Facebook page, one of which contained a sexual connotation referencing a female employee, Ms Ruby Metla.

Mr Thompson had initially obtained the permission of Ms Metla for the first meme and when he was asked to remove it, delayed in doing so and then posted a second meme saying further inappropriate things.

360 Finance provided Mr Thompson with an opportunity to respond and to provide reasons why his employment should not be terminated. Mr Thompson maintained the memes were funny and did not warrant termination of his employment.

360 Finance summarily dismissed Mr Thompson for social media misuse, breaching its policies, misusing its property – which had been used to make the posts – and for engaging in sexual harassment.

Mr Thompson filed an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The Verdict

Mr Thompson submitted that 360 Finance had a workplace culture that tolerated such behaviour. In addition, as Mr Thompson had received multiple final warnings during his employment, he argued there could be no expectation which one was in reality a final warning that may lead to the termination of his employment.

The FWC, while conceding 360 Finance’s disciplinary processes were confusing, acknowledged that the new owners of the business were taking steps to improve workplace culture and its systems. It found Mr Thompson’s conduct was inappropriate, and he had failed to show any insight or remorse in relation to his actions. On that basis, it dismissed Mr Thompson’s application, finding the employment termination on the basis of serious misconduct was valid.

The Lessons

It is important that your workplace culture reflects the values of the organisation. If appropriate workplace culture is not maintained, through training, education and discipline, then it will be very difficult to defend any disciplinary action taken in response to perceived inappropriate conduct. It is important to clearly articulate to employees what conduct and behaviours are unacceptable in the workplace.

Please note: Case law is reported as correct and current at time of publishing. Be aware that cases in lower courts may be appealed and decisions subsequently overturned.

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