Friended by Mandate

Down Under, unfriending somebody can now be construed as bullying:

It’s tempting to unfriend people on social networks when you’re mad at them, but you may want to think twice about it when coworkers are involved… at least, in Australia. The country’s Fair Work Commission has determined that an administrator’s decision to unfriend a fellow employee on Facebook constituted evidence of bullying. While this wasn’t the only example (there was plenty of name-calling and purposeful neglect), it helped demonstrate the “lack of emotional maturity” involved with the harassment. As a result, the victim now has an order to stop the bullying, which triggered anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders.

More from Ars Technica:

According to the FWC’s decision, a Tasmanian woman named Rachael Roberts had received unfair and unkind treatment from supervisor Lisa Bird—along with her husband, agency owner James Bird—that went on for months. Beyond aggressive and even sexually suggestive comments and treatment, however, an incident in late January was the one that crossed a line enough for Roberts to file her complaint. On that occasion, Roberts was taken aside by Lisa Bird after she had lodged complaints about various, frequent workplace issues to the owner.

Roberts was allegedly scolded by Bird in person, including being described as “a naughty little schoolgirl running to the teacher,” and after that confrontation ended, Roberts checked her phone to see if any negative stories about the incident had been posted to Facebook. At that point, Roberts confirmed that she’d been unfriended by Lisa Bird—a fact that was corroborated by SMS messages almost immediately afterward between Roberts and James Bird.

It sounds like Roberts worked a lousy job for mean bosses — but this court decision is weird, wrong, and open up entirely new avenues for wasteful lawsuits from social justice types.

Which, come to think of it, might have been the whole point.