Why?  Because the genesis of this blog is to document the mind numbing stupidity of the work-place.  A prohibited activity if we were a public servant.

Daniel Starr,Starr v Department of Human Services [2016] FWC 1460 a front line public servant first came to the powers to be’s attention when in April 2015 he contradicted posts by the Department of Human Service’s social media unit on the online forum ­Whirlpool.

The social media unit (Flick@HumanServices) posted youth allowance claims took at least 21 days to process but could be longer than expected.

Starr (mmmdl)responded by posting the benchmark was now 42 days and claiming that by giving incorrect information, it was “doing nothing other than giving people false hope, and increasing customer traffic”.

The department then trawled mmmdl’s various comments posted over the years and built a profile which they then ran against internal HR files to determine mmmdl’s identity.   Are you following?  A poster corrects the department’s erroneous assertions and they go on a witch-hunt!!!!

Of course there were the injudicious comments which hereto had not come to the Department’s attention. In 2012, Starr described appointments with long-term social security benefit recipients as “an appointment for the ­spastics and junkies.” It is Centrelink…

Starr was sacked as he breached the Code of Conduct (not for the post that first caught the Department’s attention) but the Fair Work Commission stated the Department had overstepped and should he should be re-instated.

This case is important  as it makes a distinction between senior and lower level public servants, and spells out how admin(front-line) workers are unlikely to derail government policy, no matter how critical they are online.

The Vice Commissioner found: I reject completely the proposition requiring all members of the APS to be respectful at all times outside of working hours, including in the expression of their attitude to the government of the day. It would require express and absolutely unambiguous language in the statute to justify the conclusion that such a gross intrusion into the non-working lives and rights of public servants was intended.’

It can be argued that APS Code of Conduct is being used to silenced Government critics but where does a public servant’s private life boundary begin?  Should you be sacked for something that was posted years ago?  Where does it leave employees in the private sector?

The Department intends to appeal the Starr decision to the full bench.

 

Sources:

#86 (08.04.2016) Unfair Dismissal: Social Media Posts No Grounds for Dismissal

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/the-hunt-how-the-public-service-tracks-down-internal-critics-20160404-gnxjqv.html

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/silencing-public-servants/7367576#transcript

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/centrelink-staffer-who-called-clients-spastics-reinstated/news-story/b0dc565d93a9c33b34d6cc0f9efd6048

 

 

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