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Beware the social media posts that could come back as evidence to haunt you – Employee Rights/ Labour Relations



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So you made a frivolous post on social media one night
not thinking beyond the moment and never realising it could one day
be used in evidence in court against you, or cost you your
job.

Brisbane lawyers Trent Johnson and Michael Coates say increasingly, social media
posts are being used as evidence in compensation and employment law
matters because courts can and do order people to disclose the
contents of their social media accounts.

They say people need to realise that so-called ‘security
settings’ on social media posts can mean nothing if lawsuits
result.

Mr Johnson, an Accredited Specialist in injury compensation law
and a Director of Brisbane law firm Bennett & Philp Lawyers,
said a past case before the Brisbane District Court where a woman
was claiming against her former employer, illustrated the
increasing reliance placed on social media posts as evidence.

Both the plaintiff and the defendant’s solicitors tendered
evidence of Facebook posts made by a manager and the
employee respectively. Mr Johnson said it confirmed the view that
anything people post on social media posts could come back to haunt
them at a later time.

Mr Coates, an employment law expert and a Director of Bennett
& Philp Lawyers, said social media played a role in employment law disputes too, especially if
employees posted confidential workplace information on a social
media forum or badmouthed fellow workers or the boss.

Mr Johnson said someone uploading critical remarks about others
on social media could also risk facing a defamation action.

“A post on Facebook is deemed to be effectively publishing
the remarks, whether the post is publicly visible or confined to a
closed group. Whatever is posted is vulnerable to being re-posted
and shared by others,” he said.

Mr Johnson recalled a past court matter where the court found a
plaintiff’s evidence was considered unreliable because of
exaggerations she had made in posts about her employment and
lifestyle on her social media.

“The court found she was lacking in credibility because of
her false claims on social media. If you’re posting items about
your life, make sure they are accurate. If not the claims could
come back later to your detriment,” he said.

Mr Coates said it was common now for employers to check a
person’s social media pages during the hiring process.

“If you brag about partying all weekend and chucking a
sickie from work for a long weekend it won’t endear you to an
employer and could cost you a job,” he said.

But how do courts get access to a person’s private
information on social media?

“Even if your privacy settings are configured to just
family and friends, the court has the power to demand a party be
provided with access to your social media accounts if it is
believed those accounts could hold evidence relevant to a
claim,” Mr Johnson said.

He said court-ordered access was becoming a regular thing and
security settings really meant nothing.

“In effect, the court can require you to disclose or
provide access to or accept a friend request from a party wishing
to sight your social media posts. This applies across the spectrum
to all social media accounts,” he added.

Mr Coates said people should take the view that anything they
post on social media could one day be made public with far wider
consequences than imagined.

“Social media is a powerful communications medium but it
can also prove to be your undoing later if you say one thing on
social media but claim another thing in court,” he said.

Mr Johnson said in compensation matters especially, parties were
keen to see what their opponents may have posted because a social
media post could be the evidence needed to win or lose a case.

“In other words, think before you post, about what you are
saying and who could potentially see it. If you don’t want
anyone to know, then keep it to yourself,” he said.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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