A casual Census collector asked her 7000 LinkedIn connections “to stand up and revolt against Government lockdowns”. This breached the ABS code of conduct and social media policy “because it was in support of a political message and identified her as an ABS employee without disclaimer”. Disrespectful emails were also sent to the employer during the investigation process.

A member of the public complained to the ABS that the Census collector had identified herself as an ABS employee and she was sprouting “crazy COVID conspiracy theories and misinformation”.

After being dismissed from her employment, the Census collector brought general protections proceedings. She sought a finding “that the termination of her employment was a violent personal act taken for reason/s that included her expression of political opinion”.

The ABS maintained that the “inappropriate, aggressive [and] disrespectful” emails sent by the Census collector to her manager when asked to respond to the breaches gave the ABS “no confidence that she understood its policies and what was expected of her in terms of appropriate workplace behaviour“.

The Court found that the ABS did not dismiss the employee for having a political opinion, but rather for “choosing to post her political opinion in a manner that breached” the ABS’ code of conduct and social media policy.
See: Skelton v Commonwealth of Australia trading as Australian Bureau of Statistics [2023] FedCFamC2G 89 (13 February 2023)

Take Out Point: Employees are entitled to express themselves on social media but when they identify their employer and act inconsistently with their employer’s code of conduct and social media policy, there can be serious consequences for their employment.

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