Unfriending a Facebook ‘friend’ could amount to bullying says Australian tribunal

Facebook was in the news a couple of weeks ago for the ‘dislike’ button. Now, its in the news once again. This week a tribunal in Tasmania ruled that ‘unfriending’ someone on Facebook equals bullying in the workplace.

The Fair Work Commission decided trimming someone out of your news feeds is equivalent to risking a colleague’s health and safety.

The case came up when Real estate agent Rachael Roberts filed an application with Australia’s Fair Work Commission, in order to put a stop to workplace bullying by the agency’s principal, Lisa Bird.

While Roberts sited 18 different incidents in which she claimed she was being bullied, nine were upheld by the Commission, according to News.com, including what may be the most provocative slight of all: that Lisa Bird defriended Roberts on Facebook.

Bird who works at the View estate agency in Launceston, was found guilty of bullying sales administrator Rachel Roberts. The tribunal ruled in the favor of Roberts claiming that Bird showed a “lack of emotional maturity” for having the nerve not to say “good morning” to her colleague and deleting her from Facebook afterwards.

Roberts had filed a slew of complaints, including that she was called a “naughty little school girl running to the teacher” and forbidden from adjusting the office’s air conditioning — which she says led her to seek psychological treatment and medication for sleeplessness, depression and anxiety.

Plans for an anti-bullying order for the employer are now in the offing.

A study compiled by a doctoral student from the University of Colorado found that 40 percent of people in real life would avoid anyone who unfriended them on Facebook. Women were also more likely than men to take umbrage at the affront. That may not be altogether surprising.

A safer option perhaps would be ‘hiding’ updates by the annoying “friends”.

While workplace bullying is a surprisingly predominant and productivity-slashing phenomenon that can be difficult to describe precisely, the decision in Australia sets a rather stunning precedent when it comes to social media principles.

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