Date of Award
Master of Laws (Thesis)
Schools and Centres
Professor Joan Squelch
Dr Marilyn Bomberg
Social media has become prevalent through platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and has essentially changed the way people communicate. At first, social media networks were used for private purposes; however, businesses have started using social media as a way to improve and advertise their products online. Therefore, social media presents many benefits such as lower costs for advertising and convenience for customers to view and share products online. However, the advent of social media in the business environment also creates challenges within the workplace that can have a negative effect on the employer–employee relationship. This is especially significant when social media is used inappropriately within and beyond the workplace. Therefore, the aim of this research is to address the legal challenges created by social media in the workplace, and whether employers have a contractual right to control and/or manage employees using social media beyond the workplace.
The use of social media in the workplace complicates the employment relationship because of the various legal issues it creates. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to highlight these legal issues within the workplace environment and how the use of social media affects the employment relationship when used within and beyond the workplace. Hence, this thesis will determine the meaning of a ‘workplace’ and how this may present legal issues relating to the use of social media outside of working hours. This discussion is coupled with the duties within an employment contract and whether social media has any impact on these duties within the employment relationship when determining the use of social media outside of working hours. Moreover, this thesis will examine the key legal issues arising out of the use of social media in the workplace, which include privacy and defamation as well as cyberbullying. These are key issues in relation to the ubiquitous nature of social media in the workplace.
Focusing on these legal issues, this thesis will address the means by which employers can control and monitor the use of social media by employees within and outside the workplace through existing workplace surveillance legislation and workplace policies. However, the implementation of social media workplace policies to regulate off-duty conduct of employees may create some concern in relation to a breach of privacy. Therefore, this thesis considers the impact of privacy principles within workplace surveillance and to what extent an employer can regulate the use of social media by an employee beyond the workplace.
This thesis concludes with key recommendations on the possible control and monitoring of social media within and beyond the workplace. The concluding remarks find that by introducing the integration of employment contracts and social media workplace policies, together with the implied duties under the contract, it is acceptable for employers to manage social media beyond the workplace. Secondly, this thesis found that educating and training employees on the possible risks social media in the workplace can have and keeping the workplace policies up to date, may reduce the legal challenges of social media beyond the workplace. Lastly, this thesis proposed that existing workplace surveillance legislation be amended to include specific control and monitoring of social media within and beyond the workplace.
Duvenhage, J. C. (2017). Social media in the workplace: Legal challenges for employers and employees (Master of Laws (Thesis)). University of Notre Dame Australia. https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/theses/164