find the latest legal job
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Insurance Lawyer (1 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Great Career Opportunity ·
View details
Insurance and Health Lawyer (1-4 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· New position to support Growth ·
View details
Ashley Madison: Could you sack your hacked workers?

Ashley Madison: Could you sack your hacked workers?

Nicholas Duggal TressCox

As the fallout from the Ashley Madison website hack continues, employers should consider their options if their employees are implicated, write Nicholas Duggal and Lily Fordyce

Last week saw up to 800 Australian government and police workers exposed as account holders on the Ashley Madison dating web service, with Melburnians and Sydneysiders topping overall numbers of Australian users. By using their work emails, these workers (among many) have identified not only themselves, but their employers.

The saga then begs the question: do these workers have more to worry about than just their spouses finding out? Could an exposed employee be disciplined (or even dismissed) for using the site with their work email? And if so, how?

Employees’ obligations to employers have various sources. They may be express, meaning contained in the terms of an employment contract or enterprise bargaining agreement; implied, meaning fiduciary duties implied by custom and practice, certain statutes, or certain 'common law' terms; or contained in policies and procedures. Policies usually govern matters including conduct, social media use, and appropriate use of work IT facilities.

Contracts may impose obligations on an employee to observe these policies by not engaging in conduct that would or could damage the public image and reputation of the employer, or misuse work facilities. As well as these positive obligations, termination clauses often provide circumstances where an employer may terminate an someone's employment summarily for cause. Such clauses may refer to breaches of company policies, or engaging in conduct that could harm the reputation of the employer.

The answer to our question is therefore: maybe. So far, the courts have been prepared to condone disciplinary action against employees’ misuse of other social media where there is a clear connection with the employment, and a sound policy regulating social media and/or IT use. However, a degree of uncertainty still exists about how much an employer can intrude into the private lives of employees.

The Ashley Madison scandal is therefore a telling reminder of the need for employers to prepare or update their employment contracts and workplace policies. Robust, tailored contracts, and comprehensive, illustrative policies, are crucial to protect your business in the digital age.

Nicholas Duggal is a partner and Lily Fordyce a solicitor in the employment, IR and workplace safety team at TressCox Lawyers.

Lily Fordyce TressCox


Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Ashley Madison: Could you sack your hacked workers?
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Quentin Bryce
DV has worsened in a generation: Quentin Bryce
Former governor-general of Australia Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO has spoken of her deep distress about...
Academics entertain the idea of law without lawyers
Researchers from Queensland will explore some of the most disruptive trends tipped to transform the ...
Please, Continue (Hamlet), Melbourne Festival
Oct 16 2017
Hamlet suffers slings and arrows of top Victorian barristers
Victorian judges and barristers have performed the unique play Please, Continue (Hamlet) at the Melb...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...