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I was laid off 2 hours ago and I don't have a big savings buffer, so I am immediately sending out job applications and getting in contact with my network to try and land a new job ASAP.

My question is, if I get asked why I was laid off, what should I say?

The situation is that I had written up my tinder and bumble profile with some careless humour, and I also included an innocuous reference to my previous employer (Under the "Current employer" heading). My profiles got picked up by some asian blog/news site (I'm still not sure which one - googling isn't turning anything up. edit: apparently it was a facebook group "subtle asian traits", but I can't find the group) and the profiles ended up getting 600k views. The word got back to the big dogs at my company and today the CEO pulled me aside and made it clear that my profile constitutes a damning violation of the company social media policy and that I am therefore laid off.

How should I talk about this going into future interviews? I expect that the question "Why did you leave your previous employer?" will come up and I'm not sure what is the best way to answer. Do I admit that I was fired and then try to explain why?

edit: On another note, was this lawful dismissal? I'm living and working in Sydney Australia. Reflecting on it, it seems kinda weird that a company can just send me out the door because my tinder profile was featured on some blog and it just so happened to include the fact that I work for them. Relevant information: This was my third time working at the company. In total I have worked for them for 27 months but I was only 4 months in to this particular stint. I also was on a casual contract.

marked as duplicate by mxyzplk, Fattie, Jim G., Dukeling, The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 20 '18 at 20:00

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 20 '18 at 23:16
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"Why did you leave your previous employer?" will come up and I'm not sure what is the best way to answer. Do I admit that I was fired and then try to explain why?

If you lie, and they check references, that's not going to work out well for you. I'd suggest something along the lines of "I inadvertently violated my company's social media policy, and I was let go for it".

On another note, was this lawful dismissal? I'm living and working in Sydney Australia. Reflecting on it, it seems kinda weird that a company can just send me out the door because my tinder profile was featured on some blog and it just so happened to include the fact that I work for them. Relevant information: This was my third time working at the company. In total I have worked for them for 27 months but I was only 4 months in to this particular stint. I also was on a casual contract.

I'm not a lawyer, but it is unlikely that you have a case for unfair dismissal.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has an online quiz that you can take to determine your eligibility. In general, contractors are not eligible, although there is some provision for sham arrangements where an employer tries to abuse contracting.

You also can't claim unfair dismissal unless you have been continuously employed for at least 6 months (12 months for businesses with fewer than 15 employees). If there was a gap between the end of your previous stint and the start of your most recent sting, then you probably don't meet this requirement.

But I am not a lawyer. I strongly recommend reading the FWC page to check your eligibility, and then perhaps getting legal advice. Note that if you want to claim for unfair dismissal you need to do so within 21 days of your termination taking effect.

If the contract/employment period issues don't exclude you, a lawyer will probably want to know:

  • Did your employer have a social media policy?
  • Were you aware that it existed? (Or should you reasonably have been aware?)
  • What does it say?
  • Did your contract have anything about bringing the employer into disrepute, etc.?
  • What exactly is "careless humour"?
  • I just did the quiz and it said that I'm eligible. I'm not sure whether to bother going ahead with it though. Doesn't it involve lots of stress and legal fees and stuff to pursue this? – TheIronKnuckle Nov 20 '18 at 6:16
  • Surely the company can afford much better lawyers than I can. I wouldn't want to poke that hornets nest unless I had a rock solid case – TheIronKnuckle Nov 20 '18 at 6:17
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    With legal cases, (in general) you simply find a solicitor who will take your case. You pay nothing unless they win. If they win, you go halfies. The good part of this system is, if they reckon you won't win, they won't take the case, which is best all-around. – Fattie Nov 20 '18 at 6:59
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    @Fattie - and the bad part of the "no win, no fee" system is that the litigant is often required to pay the other sides' expenses and costs if they lose. So read the small print and don't assume losing costs you nothing, or that it's risk free. – Laconic Droid Nov 20 '18 at 20:05
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    @TheIronKnuckle A lawyer will be able to advise you on that better than we can, and you should be able to find one who'll do an initial consult for free. – Geoffrey Brent Nov 20 '18 at 21:56
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Pretty much your only option is to be upfront about it - and preferrably use it as an example of a lesson learned.

Attempting to dissemble around it is likely to do more harm then good - there's just too much chance of them getting the other side of the story, a simple reference check (or them being one of the ~600k people to have seen the profiles) and you're done.

Instead I suggest something like this:

A silly joke on one of my online profiles got out of hand when it went viral and unfortunately I had my employer's name listed on the same profile so they felt unable to continue with me.

It's true, doesn't make excuses for it and demonstrates some maturity over the incident.

As for whether your firing was legal or fair or not, I'm not a lawyer so don't take this is as legal advice but I think you're going to be on to a loser trying to take that route. You referred to your occupation as "Professional Bank Robber" while naming your employer - while clearly a joke (unless you were actually hired to commit bank robberies on behalf of your employer I suppose?) it's also extremely easy to interpret that "joke" as being a not-so-subtle dig at your employer implying that they rip off their customers which I imagine would satisfy the:

The off duty conduct damages the employer’s interests

requirement for the employer to dismiss the employee under The Fair Work Act, add in the "jokes" around heroin use and potentially racially-motivated comments and it.. doesn't look good.

The fact that this was on a public profile that was subsequently shared publicly to over half a million people will likely make the notion of it being "sufficiently private" so as to avoid reflecting on the company a non-starter. In Fitzgerald v Escape hair design the court accepted that internet interactions can bring an employer into disrepute and while those grounds weren't upheld in that case - the reasoning was that the specific employer wasn't identified and it was a facebook post limited to friends only. Not criteria that applies in this case.

It may well be a completely moot point anyway since you were only employed for four months and the Fair Work act requires you to have been employed for 6 months before you can apply for unfair dismissal

As always a lawyer specializing in employment law will be able to give you a more definitive answer.

  • This actually answers the question. Good one. (The first question, not the extraneous one the OP added.) Moto, you've really hit the nail on the head with mention of "viral". If I was a complete fool, and did something like this, the way I'd try to talk my way out of it or pass it over in the future, is with the word "viral". I'd say (bullshit) such as "Oh man, a post I made went viral - you know what that's like! Right?!" or "Was sacked after an unfortunate incident when a sex post went viral - you may have heard about it, ouch!" I think that's about all you can hope. – Fattie Nov 20 '18 at 16:26
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In Australia a lot of companies are very strict on how you represent them on social media (especially government organisations). You're better off not mentioning who you work for at all. Some companies (and every government organization I worked for) have social media clauses in their contracts for what is expected of you. The way they see it, a casual observer can not differentiate between your opinions online and those of the organizations (if you've mentioned the organisation on your profile). Anything you say can be seen as representing the organization and so it is very easy for them to say you brought the organization under disrepute.

As for your other question I'll let a HR expert answer but treat it as any dismissal, focus on what you did and what you achieved, not why you left.

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    Not just in Oz. Everywhere. I can't believe that anyone, in this day and age, would measure their employer on social media, other than LinkedIn & the like. Where is the possible upside? The potential downside should be obvious, with the OP confirming it for us. Sorry, the OP's actions just leave me shaking my head in bemusement. – Mawg Nov 20 '18 at 8:13
  • @Mawg "Everywhere" is overstating it. I am not aware of my current employer (CH), my previous employer (DE), or the one before that (GB) having a social media policy (although it is quite likely that the GB one - Thales - did). OTOH, I'm old enough not to write up a dating site profile with "careless humour". – Martin Bonner Nov 20 '18 at 12:30
  • I was replying to "In Australia a lot of companies are very strict on how you represent them on social media" - I don't think it is just in Oz. Also, are you following me? I have bounced between DE and GB for the past 4 or 5 years - including a spot at Thales (Crawley). Small world, huh? ;-) – Mawg Nov 20 '18 at 12:42
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I would only bring it up if they ask you about how you departed from your previous employment.
Don't mention it on your resumee as being let go.

So, if they ask why you were fired you could say

They didn't like one of your personal posts on social media.

Should you be asked about specifics or should you feel it may be better to right away clear the air, tell them

You made a playful remark in jest that also could be misinterpreted as racism.

We all see what you did there with the "yellow fever" and this is one of those things where context is king.
Sadly context is not considered these days...

Actually, if you think the interviewer won't have a problem that you have posted on tinder / bumble you even should say

You posted on tinder and made a remark of being interested in catching yellow fever or spreading it or whatever context you used it in, if it is not too lewd.

This way you leave them to decide whether you're a racist or if it was a dumb post or funny or simply bad with puns and horny or if your former employer is a stuck up prude or PC police ...

But make sure to read your audience well enough before you use this one, it is a risky play and could backfire.

As for the legality of them firing you:
Did you name your (former) employer anywhere in your profile or did you ONLY write "Professional bank robber"?

If you did mention the employer by name, they may indeed have reason to fire you since you clearly associated yourself with them and then by proxy called them "bankrobbers" as well.

If you didn't name them, it is not so clear cut as you were acting as a private individual and didn't include or identified with your employer at all.

Also, did the social news coverage mention your employer anywhere?

Plus, are you asian?
Racism miraculously flies pretty much away as soon as people use even derogatory terms relating to their own race or whatever personal situation was remarked that caused offense.

In general, an employer has no right to influence an employees personal, private space and activities, especially if they are not illegal.
Nor do (at least should) an individuals actions in their private time shine any light on their employer.

Whether firing you was legal can only be answered by a lawyer - well, ultimately by a judge.

Companies are understandably afraid of attracting negative publicity and nowadays opt for a kneejerk reaction in dealing with cases that may be considered by some as controversial or bad(especially concerning sex, race,religion or violence).

Many times this may not be legal or nescessary but they do it to stay safe and protect their own image and interests.

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I just got fired.

Okay that is serious.

My question is, if I get asked why I was laid off, what should I say?

Did you get laid off or fired? Those are two very different things. I'm not sure if in Australia they mean different but I'm assuming so.

Laid off is where you are dismissed for the reason set by your company's plan: restructuring, loss of profit, down sizing, etc, etc. Being fired is usually a result of something you did either repeatedly or as a one time thing: being late, performance reasons, getting into a verbal/physical fight, etc, etc.

Being laid off is typical and easily explained. "I was laid off due to my company moving. Or my department was dismissed after our product was not as profitable as expected." That doesn't mean you did wrong, only that you did your duties but for whatever reason, the company did not need you anymore. Don't explain any ills, or anything mean about your coworkers. Any hiring manager would be able to differentiate the terms "fired" and "laid off." The former being more serious and something to caution about hiring you.

Good luck with your job hunt.

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