Coronavirus has brought about an unprecedented time for Australia. Particularly in Victoria, which has been hit hard with the second wave of infections, leading to a significant impact on the economy and people’s general wellbeing. It is only natural that people would have strong reactions and opinions about the current state of affairs.
Australians have the benefit of an implied right to freedom of political communication allowing us to freely discuss matters of political importance. However, this has not prevented employers from dismissing employees for comments made on their private social media accounts.
We have previously seen employers dismiss employees for their political views. For instance, Israel Folau was dismissed from his position at Rugby Australia following tweets about ‘homosexuals’ and ‘sinners’. What sparked was a significant debate about the ability for employers to dismiss employees for expressing their views on their personal social media pages.
This is also reminiscent of Michaela Banerji, a public servant who was dismissed in 2013 after she posted tweets criticising what was then the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, on their immigration policies and its treatment of immigration detainees. In 2019 Ms Banerji was unsuccessful in her appeal to the High Court arguing that the dismissal had infringed her implied right to freedom of political communication. In that instance, the High Court found that her employer’s code of conduct was proportionate to its purpose of maintaining an apolitical public service.
With the emergence of online groups like “RISEUPMELBOURNE” criticising the lockdown laws in Victoria, and Facebook events promoting the lockdown protests, there are boundless opportunities for someone to voice their displeasure. It is not unheard of for employers to commence disciplinary action against employees for their social media posts on politics.
If your employer has commenced disciplinary actions against you for breaches of their social media policy, you should seek legal advice.