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September 25, 2015

Facebook unfriending ruled workplace bullying

News: Row between colleagues escalates online.

By Charlotte Henry

Facebook unfriending a colleague could get you into trouble for work place bullying, if an Australian court ruling is anything to go by.

A row over a lost sale at a Tasmania real estate office resulted in Lisa Bird unfriending colleague Rachel Roberts on Facebook. The row escalated into a tribunal.

It comes at the same time as Facebook preparing to introduce a dislike button, and concerns have been raised that this will lead to an increase in cyberbulling.

Bird’s husband is the boss of the agency where all three work, and after a dispute in a meeting, Roberts went on Facebook to discover that she had been unfriended by her colleague.

The Australian Fair Work Commission’s Nicole Wells ruled: "Mrs Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms Roberts … 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,’

Indeed, the ruling went as far as to say that the Facebook incident, and Bird stopping saying good morning to Roberts, could damage Roberts health and safety.

There is now more scrutiny than ever on people’s conduct online, particularly towards colleagues. Other social networks, such as Reddit, have had to take steps to tackle the issue.

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