Social media postings can be against the law if they discriminate against, harass, bully or racially vilify a person.

Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favourably than another person because of a particular attribute they have. Harassment or bullying can amount to discrimination in some circumstances.

Inappropriate posts, comments or content shared on social media can amount to sexual harassment.

Example: An employee at a car dealership posted a photo of herself wearing a bikini on a social networking site. The employee alleged that the owner of the car dealership posted comments of a sexual nature on the site in relation to the photographs. The employee made a complaint of sexual harassment.

Racially offensive material posted or shared on social media can be a form of racial hatred.

Example: A complaint of racial hatred was made about a social networking site that contained comments and images demeaning to Aboriginal people.

Employers can be held legally responsible for acts of discrimination or harassment that occur in the workplace or in connection with a person’s employment. This can include posts and comments made or circulated on social media. To minimise their liability, employers need to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination or harassment from occurring in their workplaces.

They can take positive steps to do this by educating employees about appropriate social media use, providing training on discrimination and harassment and having a policy which addresses discrimination and harassment in social media use.