Can Facebook ‘unfriending’ count as workplace bullying?

Facebook went down again today, depriving millions of Americans of a source of inaccurate information and pictures of kittens.

Has too much of our routine been handed over to Facebook? This story from Australia might provide a clue.

Australia’s Fair Work Commission ruled that a worker has been bullied by a colleague in a real estate office. To be sure, there were plenty of allegations in Rachael Roberts’ complaint that might’ve led to the conclusion of “unreasonable behavior.”

But this one in the complaint was among those upheld as an example:

Ms. Roberts said Mrs. Bird had pointed at her, told her to sit down when she had tried to leave the meeting and had stood in her way in front of the door.

Ms. Roberts said the conduct was humiliating and hostile and left her in a very distressed state and that she left the office crying. Ms. Roberts said that when she was sitting in her car after leaving the office it occurred to her that Mrs. Bird might make a Facebook comment about the incident.

Upon checking Facebook, only minutes after the incident, she found that Mrs. Bird had deleted her as a Facebook friend.

The arbiter in the case did not say unfriending on Facebook was itself “bullying,” but that unfriending could be used to show a pattern of unreasonable behavior.

The evidence of Ms. Roberts as to Mrs. Bird defriending her on Facebook immediately after the incident is supported by a contemporaneous text message between Ms Roberts and Mr Bird.

It was not refute by Mrs. Bird in evidence. This action by Mrs. Bird evinces a lack of emotional maturity and is indicative of unreasonable behaviour, the likes of which I have already made findings on. The ‘school girl’ comment, even accepting of Mrs. Bird’s version of events, which I am not, is evidence of an inappropriate dealing with Ms Roberts which was provocative and disobliging.

I am of the view that Mrs. Bird took the first opportunity to draw a line under the relationship with Ms. Roberts on 29 January 2015, when she removed her as a friend on Facebook as she did not like Ms. Roberts and would prefer not to have to deal with her. I am satisfied that the evidence of Ms. Roberts, as to the incident on 29 January 2015, is to be preferred and that the allegation of unreasonable behaviour by Mrs. Bird in Allegation 17 is made out.

(h/t: CNBC)