from the dislike dept
Workplace rules: who can understand them, am I right? I mean, they give me a computer at work and I'm not supposed to use it to find the most hilarious NSFW pictures possible? They give me co-workers but I'm not allowed to question them about exactly where they fit into the Illuminati conspiracy that may or may not be going on and why are you running away? My workplace encourages me to use social media in a responsible way, but I'm not allowed to unfriend people I don't get along with?
No, no I'm not. At least, if I worked in Australia I wouldn't be allowed to, according to the Australian government's Fair Work Commission, which recently claimed that de-friending a co-worker is a form of emotional immaturity in the workplace.
Rachael Roberts, a Launceston real estate agent, complained to the commission that she was bullied by her colleague Lisa Bird, leaving her with depression and anxiety. The Facebook incident took place in January this year, after Ms Bird allegedly called Ms Roberts a "naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher" during an aggressive meeting in the tea room.Can you hear that commotion off in the distance? That's a hundred-million workplace trolls throughout the world rejoicing as though it were troll-Christmas, because a ruling like this is not only nonsensical, but it's also a mandate that the trolled must continue to be trolled in the form of Facebook. Yes, upon review of the incidents that Roberts complained about, the ruling seems to indicate that Bird, whatever her feelings and interactions with Roberts might be, must continue to have her digital space invaded against her will. Even if Roberts is correct that Bird has acted like something of a jerk, and judging from the commission's other findings that seems to be the case, what business is it of government to mandate who a Facebook user must or must not continue to connect with both in and out of the workplace? Put more succinctly: what the ever-loving hell is going on here?
Ms Roberts told the commission she left the office crying and when she later checked Facebook to see if Ms Bird has commented on Facebook about the incident, she found that Ms Bird had deleted her as a Facebook friend. Fair Work Commission deputy president Nicole Wells said in her decision that the unfriending was unreasonable behaviour and that Ms Roberts had been bullied at work.
Well, here to provide a non-explanation is a lawyer who is about to not make sense.
Josh Bornstein, from Maurice Blackburn lawyers, argues the Facebook unfriending is bullying but only because it happened in the context of several other incidents.I love this kind of argument. Acting hostile towards the victim? That's bullying. Belittling them? That's a-bullying, too. Berating them and otherwise interacting with them in a negative way? Bullying. Cutting all of that off by ceasing communication with the person? Well screw you because that's bullying, too. I do believe this is the first time I've ever heard an argument for any kind of harrassment stemming from non-communication between two parties. The commission went so far as to decide that Mrs. Bird's defriending was emotional immaturity on the part of Mrs. Bird, and saying so in the context of discussing Mrs. Bird being a bully.
"The Fair Work Commission didn't find that unfriending someone on Facebook constitutes workplace bullying," he said. "What the Fair Work Commission did find is that a pattern of unreasonable behaviour, hostile behaviour, belittling behaviour over about a two-year period, which featured a range of different behaviours including berating, excluding and so on, constituted a workplace bullying.
 The evidence of Ms Roberts as to Mrs Bird defriending her on Facebook immediately after the incident is supported by a contemporaneous text message between Ms Roberts and Mr Bird. 64 It was not refute by Mrs Bird in evidence. This action by Mrs Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour, the likes of which I have already made findings on. The ‘school girl’ comment, even accepting of Mrs Bird’s version of events, which I am not, is evidence of an inappropriate dealing with Ms Roberts which was provocative and disobliging. I am of the view that Mrs Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms Roberts on 29 January 2015, when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like Ms Roberts and would prefer not to have to deal with her. I am satisfied that the evidence of Ms Roberts, as to the incident on 29 January 2015, is to be preferred and that the allegation of unreasonable behaviour by Mrs Bird in Allegation 17 is made out.Experts about bullying appear to agree that this is an overreach by the commission.
Bullying expert Oscar Yildiz said the Fair Work Commission has set a dangerous precedent, and Ms Bird's actions on social media did not constitute a personal attack.Of course it doesn't. If anyone in any part of their lives has a negative interaction with a person, it's a perfectly natural thing to un-friend them from social media. Hell, thousands of personal relationships take this course every single day. Government stepping in to decide who a person may or may not keep in their social media circles is an overreach of astounding proportions.
"In this case, what is the future threat? That this person has unfriended someone on Facebook? Well, big deal," Mr Yildiz said. "As far as I'm concerned that doesn't constitute bullying and it shouldn't. If it does, what the commission has done here is set precedent."