Facebook and Employment Law

Facebook photos endanger sick leave

Source stuff nz


A Gisborne man who called in sick was fired after his boss saw Facebook pictures of him at a waka ama championship.

And an employment law expert has warned Bruce Taiapa’s sacking could be repeated if people continue to post pictures on social media sites while they are supposed to be on sick leave.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled that training institute Turanga Ararau was justified in firing Mr Taiapa in July last year after he misused his sick leave.

In March last year, Mr Taiapa, 59, asked to take a week’s leave without pay so he could attend the waka ama championships in Rotorua. He was granted only three days off because no-one was available to cover his work.

The next Monday, he called in sick, saying he had a damaged calf muscle.

Two days later, his boss saw a picture of him at the championships, posted on Facebook. Mr Taiapa was smiling and giving the thumbs-up.

Mr Taiapa said he had gone to Rotorua with his whanau to watch teams he had coached. He then travelled to Tauranga, where his grandsons competed in a squash tournament. It was seven days before he and his whanau returned to Gisborne. Mr Taiapa still believes he did nothing wrong.

He told The Dominion Post his dismissal was unjustified because he was on certified sick leave and was entitled to manage his health as he saw fit.

“My spiritual being was better there than being miserable at home.”

Employment law expert and Dominion Post columnist Susan Hornsby-Geluk said employees who took sick leave and then posted pictures on Facebook of their social activities were likely to be fired.

“If you are out engaging in social activities, when you should be at home on your sickbed, you run a higher risk of being caught these days . . .”

People did not have to remain restricted to their sickbeds while on leave but they did have to take steps to recuperate.

“In this case there is little or no relationship between the activities he undertook and his recovery.

“There are also serious questions about the genuineness of his illness.”

Employees needed to take a commonsense approach to what they did while on sick leave, she said.

“It’s one thing to take a trip to the supermarket when you’re supposed to be unwell but quite another thing to go away, essentially on holiday, for a week.”


When on sick leave you can:

Go to the doctor and chemist

Pick up necessities from the supermarket

Go to the DVD store

Do some light housework

Go for a walk (but an employer has the right to ask questions if you’re spotted)

You cannot:

Post pictures of yourself at the beach on Facebook

Go shopping for a new pair of shoes

Visit the pub for a beer with mates

Work out at the gym

– © Fairfax NZ News