Loose Lips Sink Ships: Badmouthing the Boss Deemed a Sackable Offence

In brief: A bar supervisor at a Sydney hotel had her employment terminated after venting on a Facebook group chat about management. This was deemed a valid reason for dismissal by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). In this article, we outline some key takeaways for employers.

In the recent case of Breanna Roche v The Trustee For The Dolphin Hotel Unit Trust [2024] FWC 606, a regular and systematic casual employee learned a hard lesson about the risks of venting frustrations about management on a staff group chat, which she considered a ‘management free space’.


Breanna Roche had been a casual employee at The Dolphin Hotel in Sydney since April 2021. However, her employment was terminated in November 2023 after she participated in negative discussions about the management team on the “Dolphin Fam Bam” Facebook group chat.

Roche was a bar supervisor and had a history of attitude and behavioural issues. There were two times, at least, where the employer explained what they required from Roche in the performance of her role, being the first was the meeting of 22 August 2023, and in the more general sense, the supervisor’s meeting on 31 October 2023. In the October meeting, the supervisor’s emphasised the need for improved customer service and following management directives as “one team.”

The Law

The FWC considered whether Roche’s termination was harsh, unjust or unreasonable under sections 387 and 394 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Section 387 requires considering factors like whether there was a valid reason, if the employee was notified of the reasons, and whether they had an opportunity to respond.


The FWC found the employer had valid reasons justifying Roche’s dismissal related to her inappropriate conduct and involvement in fostering negative comments about managers on the group chat. This went against directives given at the previous meetings. Importantly, Roche was afforded procedural fairness – she was made aware of the reasons for potential dismissal and given a chance to explain herself before termination.

Key Takeaways

The case highlights several critical lessons for employers:

“Private” employee group chats are seldom truly private when work matters are discussed. Employers may need to monitor and respond to inappropriate conduct occurring in these forums, just as with public social media activity.

Those in supervisory roles should be put on notice and held to higher attitude and behavioural standards for forward-facing, customer service focused industries.

Always consider an employee’s full context and history when evaluating disciplinary issues. Prior warnings and patterns of behaviour are relevant factors.

An employee’s actions will be viewed in the full context of the employee and employer relationship. Roche’s prior warnings about her continued negative attitude were factored in.

Despite valid reasons for termination, employers must afford procedural fairness by notifying employees of concerns and allowing opportunities to respond.

Employers can potentially justify termination over employees venting about leadership/management online, as this conduct would likely be in breach of the Employer’s Code of Conduct and/or acceptable use of technology policy (if applicable).

The decision serves as a cautionary tale for employees – what you say in online spaces can impact your career, even if you think it’s a “private” conversation. Employees should avoid negatively discussing their workplace, managers or leadership as it can potentially be viewed as misconduct justifying termination. Employers may wish to provide employees with a timely reminder of this.

In an era where online venting is common, this case reminds employees to exercise restraint and professionalism. As the old saying goes, “loose lips sink ships” – badmouthing the boss, even in seemingly private chats, can have the potential to capsize one’s professional journey.

Source: Lexology

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